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Part 2. Black People Building Food Sovereignty in Philly and Beyond

  • Features
February 21, 2023
Written By: Amanda Ruffner

For this year’s Black History Month, we’re highlighting organizations led by Black people that are doing transformative food justice and food sovereignty work in Philly and nationally.

Sankofa Community Farm

Sankofa Community Farm is a spiritually-rooted, intergenerational farm uplifting people and cultures of the African diaspora. Sankofa spans 3.5 acres in Southwest Philadelphia, produces over 15,000 pounds of food per year using natural agricultural practices, and is powered by paid high school interns working alongside community elders, neighbors and volunteers.

“At the farm, we are committed to living the praxis of Sankofa, a constant ‘remembering’ as we move forward with our lives as individuals, nourished by active engagement of our people’s shared narratives in America. The concept of Sankofa is derived from King Adinkera of the Akan people of West Africa. Sankofa is expressed in the Akan language as “se wo were fi na wosan kofa a yenkyi.” Literally translated, it means, “It is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot” — or, as we say, “Go back and get it.” The farm has been guided by the idea of Sankofa since its inception and we work daily to bring this consciousness to our Southwest Philadelphia community.”

– from What is Sankofa? Sankofa Community Farm at Bartram’s Garden

Find Sankofa Community Farm’s chemical-free produce June through November at the Bartram’s Village and Clark Park farmers markets. Residents of Southwest Philly can also get low-cost raised garden beds, soil and seed starts from Sankofa to start growing their own food at home, or can sign up to join Sankofa’s on-site community garden.

Read morePhilly Rising: Honoring a garden’s ties to the past ensures Black generations of the future

Philly Forests

Philly Forests is an eight-acre farm social enterprise dedicated to farming sustainably and diversifying Philadelphia’s ecosystem. Philly Forests uses revenue from their crop sales to operate their Urban Ecology Program which distributes free trees, shrubs and perennial plants through the Philadelphia zip codes with the lowest amount of tree canopy. 

In 2022, Philly Forests began a school garden and mini food forest at EW Rhodes K-8 School in North Philadelphia. This year, they’re expanding both the garden and forest with materials and additional infrastructure to boost positive interaction! You can support Philly Forests by donating to their Black History Month Fundraiser or joining their CSA—2023’s harvest season begins May 23 and they have a SNAP-eligible option.

John Boyd, Jr. & the National Black Farmers Association

John Boyd, Jr. is an outspoken defender of civil rights and equality, mainly in the world of agriculture / farming. He is a fourth-generation farmer determined to hold on to his heritage, and to save his farm and others from foreclosure caused by racial discrimination under the United States Department of Agriculture.

John founded the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) in 1995, an organization whose education and advocacy efforts have been focused on civil rights, land retention, access to public and private loans, education and agricultural training, and rural economic development for Black and other small farmers. John has worked with national government leaders, organizations across the world, and NBFA members across the country to break down problems and support Black farmers.
Read moreJohn Boyd, Jr. and the history of the National Black Farmers Association

Soil Generation

Soil Generation is a Black & Brown agroecology coalition of women and non-binary farmers and organizers working to ensure people of color regain community control of land and food, share resources and prioritize community healing, grow food, and protect and commune with the land. Soil Generation does this work through relationship building, honoring culture, community education, organizing, activism, and advocacy.

As a result of years of political organizing in the name of land and food justice, Soil Generation was hired by Philly Parks & Rec in 2019 to produce the city’s first-ever Urban Agriculture Plan. The draft plan, released in November 2022, uplifts Philadelphia’s rich history of urban farming and gardening, and clearly defines the resources, policies, processes, and programs necessary to sustain it for future generations. Follow Soil Generation on social media for updates on the final Urban Ag plan, plus their upcoming offerings.

Read more Soil Generation’s Agroecology From the People

Land Based Jawns

Land Based Jawns is rooted in Spirit and the many spiritual practices of our ancestors.” This food & environmental collective provides education and training to Black women, femme, and non-binary people on agriculture, land-based living, safety, and carpentry with a focus on self and community healing. Land Based Jawns’ mission and work is deeply inspired by Octavia Butler’s Parable series which explores how to build communities of people rooted in healthy relationships with the land.

“LBJ supports the various types of healing that we want to see in our Philly communities. Healing from the impacts of white violence, healing in our relationships with each other, healing in and through spirituality, and healing in our relationships with the Land. We spell out the connections between food justice and health to help our communities become collectively self-sufficient, self-reliant, and self-determined. We believe in the power of food to literally heal our bodies.”

– from About Us, Land Based Jawns

Land Based Jawns co-creator Dr. Ashley Gripper teaches a free online course called Black Agricultural Solutions to Food Apartheid covering the historical, ancestral, and spiritual connections that Black people have to land and agriculture. The ~2-week series promises to leave participants with an understanding of the many benefits of gardening and farming, including social capital, collective agency, community resilience, economic autonomy and improved mental and emotional health.

FarmerJawn Agriculture

Christa Barfield is the Philly jawn behind FarmerJawn Agriculture, a regenerative farming enterprise that focuses on improving and maintaining soil health and increasing access to organic food for marginalized communities. FarmerJawn currently operates a garden center in Germantown where community members can learn to grow, a CSA sourced from FarmerJawn’s farm in Elkins Park, and a farmer incubator that teaches Black and brown people how to farm while creating an impactful urban agriculture network and food system.

As of this year, FarmerJawn Agriculture will be taking over operations of the Westtown School’s 123-acre farm and transitioning it to organic growing practices. FarmerJawn will also be running the school’s existing market, hiring at least five employees to eventually include a community-supported agriculture business (CSA), prepared foods, and other locally grown and sourced products. “I want to create a just food system that perpetuates regenerative and organic health for our customers and the planet,” Christa says.

Read more → FarmerJawn’s Christa Barfield takes over Westtown School’s farm, and adds a new mission