Leah Penniman & Soul Fire Farm
Black History Month, day 22
In summer 2018, I discovered that gardening every day anchored well-being within me. I didn’t plant much of anything that year and I felt the loss. It was a particularly stressful summer because the book I was managing editor for was at its final, crucial stages of development before going to press. Often anxious and tired, each time out I walked out of my home office into my garden I lacked access to the exchanges of good energy I counted on by gardening. I vowed never again to miss a planting season. In conversation with a close friend, Stephanie, a baker-businesswoman-turned-farmer, told me about Leah Penniman, and what she learned through her book and lectures online. She is incorporating this knowledge at Spice Holler Farm in Barnardsville, NC, inspired by Leah’s work.
Leah Penniman was born to Reverend doctor Adele Smith Penniman, a Haitian black American pastor and activist, and a white father. She was raised in central Massachusetts with two siblings as the only family of color after her parents split and moved to Boston. Penniman began farming at age 16 with The Food Project. She has an MA in Science Education and BA in Environmental Science and International Development from Clark University. After graduating, Penniman lived in a food desert in Albany, New York, which led her to see the need for food sovereignty in Black and Brown communities. In 2006, she purchased 72-acres of land in Grafton, NY to co-found Soul Fire Farm. The farm originally focused on a farm share for low-income people. As it has grown, its mission is to end racism and injustice in the food system and to reclaiming the inherent right to belong to the earth and to have agency in the food system as BIPOC people. The farm’s flagship program is the Black Latinx Farmers Immersion, a 50-hour course to train beginner farmers. Leah published her book, “Farming While Black” in 2019. (Adapted from: Soul Fire Farm, Wikipedia.)