Why Cultural Diversity Matters to the Modern Homesteading Movement
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Have you ever noticed that when you search for homesteading resources online, the vast majority of the resources out there are written or produced from a white, Eurocentric perspective?
I’ve definitely noticed, and it’s made me think a lot lately about the lack of cultural diversity within the online homesteading world, and how this is negatively affecting the movement (and the message) over all.
In light of recent events, including the Black Lives Matter movement that’s gained massive momentum lately, I’ve been thinking a lot more about diversity and how certain groups are severely underrepresented in the mainstream modern homesteading space.
I’ve thought about how I’ve also failed to represent different cultures and viewpoints when I’ve interviewed guests for Modern Homesteading Magazine each month; Every single interviewee in the first 10 issues published so far has been white!
But the sad part is, that didn’t seem strange to me (or even show up on my radar as an issue) before the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests and calls for change woke me up to my own role in perpetuating systemic racism in our society.
People of colour have been asking us to listen; Listen to their stories and their perspectives; Give them space to be heard, to help us learn and grow. This is something we all need to be doing right now, regardless of whether we think of ourselves as racist or not. There’s no downside to hearing other people’s perspectives, especially in a space where white people dominate the conversation most of the time.
I repeat: THERE IS NO DOWNSIDE to hearing other people’s perspectives.
So today I want to give some space to people of colour in the homesteading world, because as a white woman with mostly white readers, there’s a lot we can learn about homesteading, farming, gardening, food security, self-reliance and sustainability from people of colour.
This is also one of the most powerful ways that we can practice being allies and anti-racists: by listening and learning.
There’s a lot to unpack here, and I know I won’t say all the “right” things or be able to write this without offending someone, but this is too important right now to not talk about. That being said, let’s talk about the importance of cultural diversity in the modern homesteading movement!
I’ve been doing a lot of digging lately, trying to find examples of BIPOC homesteaders (btw, “BIPOC” stands for Black, Indigenous and People Of Colour, in case you’re wondering).
What I’ve found is that there are actually a some BIPOC homesteaders, farmers and gardeners out there sharing their wisdom and experience in the online space, but I’ve had to specifically search for “black” + “homesteading” or “BIPOC” + “farmers” in order to find them.
Almost all homesteading-related blogs, resources and accounts that come up when I search for related topics are white owned and operated. This made me wonder how people of colour feel about the lack of representation in the online and mainstream modern homesteading community. How would I feel?
After all, it’s human nature to look up to others who look like us or who we share a common story or cultural identity with. For this reason, it worries me that this lack of representation could actually end up pushing people of colour away from the modern homesteading movement, or suppressing their voices when what we really need to be doing right now is empowering all people to become more self-reliant, regardless of race, culture, nationality, etc. and holding space for those voices to be a part of the conversation.
Not to mention, everyone can benefit and learn from more cultural diversity in the homesteading world as this means more exposure to different approaches and techniques that can help us grow, raise, produce and preserve our own food; To different edible and medicinal plants and herbs that we might not have known about before; To different dishes and methods of food preparation, cultural traditions and even ancient wisdom about using plants as food and medicine, but that we never get to learn about if we remain stuck in our own cultural bubbles.
As homesteaders, we often talk about the importance of preserving diversity when it comes to the food that we grow; Seed diversity, the preservation of heirloom vegetables and heritage breeds, the benefits of interplanting and growing a diverse array of crops instead of a monoculture… We know that more diversity means a healthier, more robust garden and ecosystem. Yet, we often overlook the importance of cultural diversity in the farming/gardening/homesteading world. Why is that??
I’d venture to say that the vast majority of us white folks have a white, Eurocentric view of homesteading, sustainability, food security and self-reliance. We tend to think of the pioneers and Little House On the Prairie, the Back To The Land movement and escaping the rat race and just generally not being reliant on “the system” to provide for us.
But different cultures have different relationships with the land and with those terms. Homesteading, sustainability, food security, self-reliance, etc. can mean very different things to different ethnic or cultural groups depending on their collective history and their ancestral relationship with the land and with colonialism.
These aren’t my stories to tell though, so today I want to direct you to some resources, including books, blogs, podcasts, social media accounts, etc.) that I’ve been directed to, and that I’m in the process of learning from right now. Please take some time to check them out and learn from them as well as share them with others in the homesteading/sustainability world.
1. Farming While Black by Leah Penniman (book)
I’ve been reading through this book for the past week and it’s not only an eye-opening personal account of what it’s often like for a black person to try to start up a small farming operation in the US, it’s also packed with really practical information and action steps to help you set up your own small farming operation (we’re talking a little bit larger than a small, personal homestead, but smaller than a typical commercial farm).
The information is specifically geared toward black people and people of colour, but a lot of it applies to all people and all of it is useful information for everyone in order to get a better idea of how the agricultural system works (and doesn’t work) for US citizens.
2. The Color of Food: Stories of Race, Resilience and Farming by Natasha Bowens (book)
I have yet to read this one but it’s on my list. It’s about the “intersection of race and food” and highlights growers from all different races and cultural backgrounds, as well as the racial barriers they face and why food plays such an important role in preserving cultural identity.
3. Freedom Farmers by Monica M. White (book)
Another one on my list to read, this book flips the narrative from agriculture being a symbol of slavery and oppression for black people to a symbol of resistance, justice, self-reliance and sovereignty: All foundational values of the modern homesteading movement.
4. Ron Finley (blog/Masterclass)
I only recently discovered Ron Finley from a Masterclass ad that popped up on my Facebook page and I am HOOKED on his philosophy and approach to gardening! Known as the “Guerrilla Gardener” and/or the “Gangsta Gardener,” Ron started planting vegetables in the “curbside dirt strip” next to his house back in 2010 as a way of bringing fresh produce to his South Central Los Angeles community.
Ron started growing food in the neglected parkways around his community and this act of rebellion got him in trouble with the law (go figure). He was cited for “gardening without a permit.” But that didn’t stop him. He started a petition demanding the right to grow food in his neighbourhood and authorities backed down.
Today, Ron is still working to turn South Central Los Angeles into a thriving “food forest” where men, women and children will always have access to healthy, locally grown food. Ron also teaches a gardening Masterclass where he’ll show you how to “grow your own food, keep your plants alive, and find beauty and freedom in gardening no matter the size of your space.”
Check out this short video to learn more about the powerful movement Ron started to grow and provide fresh food to his urban community.
5. Black People Grow (Instagram account)
This Instagram account highlights black farmers and gardeners and is a great place to discover new people of colour in the online homesteading/agricultural world.
6. Sundance Harvest (Instagram account/website)
An urban farmer growing organic food that’s “rooted in food justice.” From the website: “Sundance Harvest strives to provide resources, knowledge and guidance to start your own food and land sovereignty movements, create your own urban farming practice and to eradicate institutionalized racism within the food system.”
7. 1619 (podcast)
I’ve been listening to this podcast, which is all about the impact that slavery had on everything from music and culture to health care, the economy and the modern agricultural system in America. Episodes 5 and 6 titled “The Land of Our Fathers – Part 1 & 2” explore the relationship between black people and the land in the US, and how racism and prejudice presents specific barriers to black people who want to farm and grow food, even today.
This is a great listen for anyone who wants to learn more about how systemic racism impacts every facet of modern life and specifically how it connects to farming and self-reliance.
An eye-opening account of the treatment of Indigenous farmers on the Canadian prairies and the barriers that Indigenous people have faced in the farming/agricultural world and in their quest for self-reliance and autonomy. Written from the perspective of a Métis blogger. This is especially poignant for fellow Canadians who think that we don’t have a problem with racism in our country, and it’s just one of many examples of how systemic racism has affected Indigenous people and communities all over North America.
This is by no means an extensive list. I’m still actively seeking BIPOC voices in the homesteading community and I promise to highlight more as I discover them. In the meantime, please share any more resources you may know of, including blogs, books, Youtube channels, podcasts, social media accounts, etc. by people of colour. List any recommendations in the comments below!
If you yourself are a person of colour, I invite you to add your voice to the conversation by commenting below. I would love to hear your story and your perspective on this topic if you fee inclined to share!
Let’s all do our part to amplify BIPOC voices in our community, and do the work that it takes for us to learn and grow, both as homesteaders and as human beings. Let’s start right here, right now.
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