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Connecting with the land: Juneteenth and the launch of Black Urban Growers’ scholarship campaign

As the longest tradition of celebrating the emancipation of the enslaved, the Juneteenth holiday commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved Africans in Galveston, Texas, finally learned that they were officially free from the once legal institution of slavery almost two-and-a-half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is a significant holiday celebrated in the United States on June 19th. Within the Black community, Juneteenth holds an important cultural and historical significance, and it is intricately connected to the legacy of Black agriculture. For many Black farmers, Juneteenth and the struggle to gain complete control of their land and agricultural enterprises are directly related.

Freedom and farming are not only synonymous, but symbiotic in their relationship with one another. With this understanding, emancipation from enslavement, rooted in the fields of agriculture, is the undercurrent of many utilizing the work of developing sustainable food ways.

Present day, Black farmers are working to shift the narrative long associated with Black farming in this country. Healing from historical trauma connected to our ancestor’s forced labor, Black farmers continue to forge a new narrative that’s rooted in empowerment, autonomy, resilience and self determination.

Below are highlights of three, Black-led farming organizations who continue to rewrite the narrative that was long associated with our people's hands toiling the soil for others benefit and not our own:

  • Soul Fire Farm At Soul Fire Farm, Leah Penniman and a collective of farmers work towards environmental, racial, and food justice through their work in New York. Their goal is to dismantle racism within the food system while reconnecting people of color to the earth. In her book, Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm's Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land, Penniman describes her journey as Black women reclaiming her space in the agricultural world, while providing a comprehensive guide for others who may want to follow her path.

  • Carter Farm Another example is Carter Farms, a century farm in Virginia that specializes in growing ethnic, African tropical vegetables organically. “The enslavement period interrupted and greatly distorted the Africans' role and experience with agriculture. Despite this long and traumatizing experience, people of African descent still maintained leadership and vision while facing never before seen obstacles and challenges,” Michael Carter, Jr. His operation is an Afrotourism teaching farm that shares its Africulture interdisciplinary platform assisting individuals and organizations to properly reckon with racial and cultural challenges, equity and dialogue. Land acquisition is often one of the challenges faced by many.

  • Rise and Root Farm

“As we celebrate Juneteenth, let us not forget that land is the fabric of our existence,” Karen Washington, farmer, co-owner of Rise&Root Farm, and co-founder of Black Urban Growers, the organization that founded the Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners (BUGs) National Conference. “We are agrarian people and for decades through collective power the Federation of Southern Cooperatives has fueled that fight through regional cooperative and rural economic development with the intention of saving Black-owned farms and land.”

Black people have a special and ancestral connection with nature and with the land. It’s in our DNA. In our connection with the earth, we receive the wisdom and guidance of our ancestors. We are farming not only for nutrition, but for our own spiritual nourishment, connection and self determination. Join our Connecting with the Land is in Our DNA Campaign!

On Juneteenth, we continue to pay homage to the sacrifice, bloodshed and resilience of our ancestors and help to drive Black food and farming futures forward. Since 2010, the National Black Farmers & Urban Gardeners (BUGs) have helped to build community and knowledge for Black growers.

For the next 6 weeks, we’re rolling out a scholarship drive for Juneteenth! Each Monday, you will receive a new email newsletter with a story featuring a Black grower and the impact the BUGs conference has had on them.

We’re working to raise a goal of $15,000. Your generous donation will help provide travel and housing scholarships to over 100 economically challenged Black students, farmers and other individuals to attend this year’s Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners (BUGs) National Conference in Philadelphia, PA. Help us reach our goal!

Show your support for BUGs Connecting with the Land is in Our DNA Campaign!

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