By Leah Penniman
In 1920, 14 percent of all land-owning US farmers were black. Fast forward to today and less than 2 percent of farms are controlled by black people. That is a loss of over 14 million acres of farmland removed from black ownership over the last century. This dispossession of black owned farm land is symptomatic of the prevailing discrimination and violence targetting black farming communities and is something that permeates wider US society.
In Farming While Black, Penniman delves into the phenomena of land repatriation, as well as the emergence of food deserts. It was reported by the United States Department of Agriculture that 23.5 million people in the US live in what is known as a “food desert”. A “food desert” is an area that is deprived of access to affordable and nutritious food. These tend to be low income areas, as supermarkets and food suppliers do not deem these to be profitable neighbourhoods to locate stores.
Due to the lack of key food groups being available, “food deserts” have been attributed to the rising levels of obesity in the US. This impacts black communities in particular, as they suffer disproportionately from illnesses related to lack of access to fresh food and the abundance of unhealthy alternatives that exist within these areas.
As well as being the author of Farming While Black, Penniman runs Soul Fire Farm - a safe space for BIPOC to learn farming techniques. Penniman is also part of a global network of farmers who are “working to increase farmland stewardship by people of color, restore Afro-indigenous farming practices, and end food apartheid.”
We have included links below so you can purchase Farming While Black, find out more about what Soul Fire Farm are up to on their instagram and listen to Leah Penniman’s Keynote speech.