Hello friends and farmers,
You haven't heard from me in a while. There's a lot to say, but I haven't found the words for most of it yet. For a while, I had none to share. Not about the protests, not about police brutality, not about race, not even about agriculture or my life here on the farm. Because how can you talk about agriculture in this country without talking about exploitative labor that leans on the racial divide? How can you talk about food in this country without talking about the varying access, also based on racial lines? Food. Racism. Oppression. Privilege. These are each giant topics on their own. Yet they go hand in hand, and together, they are almost unfathomable. How do you even begin to articulate a semblance of a cohesive, and digestible, thought in the face of this vastness? I guess the only way is word by word, so here is a modest start, with much more to come.
As a coastal American living in progressive cities like NYC and SF, and as a Person of Color, I had generally considered myself pretty aware, or "woke" as the youths say. Discussing topics of racism, feminism, and the justice system with well-informed friends and especially my cousin, who works in family law and child services, I feel like I've learned a lot over the years. But near the start of this year, my girlfriend introduced me to the work of Jane Elliot, and that day, my understanding of racism reached an entirely new level. It's as if I was blind before. I immediately wanted to share Elliot's work far and wide, but then the self doubt crept in. Who am I to be preaching about racism and inequality? Will people even get it? How will it affect what they think of me?
Then, months later, as protestors took to the streets, galvanized by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many more, I regretted having silenced myself. I felt ashamed that I had been too embarrassed. I felt selfish for having put my insecurities above the issue, one we are all still so clearly struggling with. Racism is something I think about literally everyday. But the reality is I still have so much to learn. So the same way I'm learning and sharing on my journey into agriculture, I will share what I'm learning in the arena of social justice - what I'm reading, watching, or listening to as part of my continued self-education. And, importantly, the things I'm unlearning, because that, I am finding, is what most of the work entails.
After all, food is absolutely and unavoidably political, and our agricultural history, and present, is inseparable from racism and inequality.
So with that, here is the next edition of this humble newsletter, with hopes that some of the things waking me up may resonate with you, too.
➗ I just watched this Frontline PBS documentary on Jane Elliot's work called: A Class Divided. It's amazing to see the children from her earliest trials of her Blue Eyes Brown Eyes Experiment reflect on how it impacted their lives and perspectives into adulthood. "The day after Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, Jane Elliott, a teacher in a small, all-white Iowa town, divided her third-grade class into blue-eyed and brown-eyed groups and gave them a daring lesson in discrimination. This is the story of that lesson, its lasting impact on the children, and its enduring power 30 years later." You may have seen clips of her going around social media. She's an incredibly talented and committed teacher, and we need more like her. What's disappointing though, as she'll even say, is that she's been doing this work for 50 years and it's still as necessary as ever. The documentary is free to watch and only 50 minutes. Absolutely worth it. And don't sleep on the part where she talks about the impact on her students' test scores during and after the exercise. There's an insight there that's important to understand.
🏡 Rural property demand is spiking, with Brooklyn, Manhattan, DC, and LA among the biggest contributors. In the Hudson Valley, sales of rural listings have increased 45 percent since April. In my view, the repopulation of rural America is something we've long needed, and it was sort of inevitable, COVID-19 or not. If it wasn't this, it would be something else. Nature will always tip things the way it should be. I'm glad this shift seems to be taking shape, but it makes me nervous about how expensive land will be when I am ready to start a farm. It also makes my mom's words echo in my head from her visit to the farm in February. She did a complete 180 from criticizing my farm dreams to saying "hurry up and get some land for your farm, it's only getting more expensive!"
⚾️ Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Phillippe Aumont retired last month to start a farm in Quebec. He put it pretty well: "As a society, we’re destroying the circle of life. The circle of life is one of the most important things. If I can bring that [on] my 221 acres, then I will do the world a good deed."
🌬 On the Fourth of July, I stayed in with my girlfriend and watched Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. It was my first time seeing it, and I loved it. The film has themes centering around nature and humans' continued disregard for its balance. It's a good reminder that so much of our destructive behavior comes from hubris, fear, and misunderstanding. We recently watched Princess Mononoke, too, which is also beautifully animated and covers similar themes. I love that the heroes in Miyazaki films are compassionate and win through empathy and understanding, a stark contrast to most Hollywood productions. Neither film is available on Netflix in the US, so unless you have a VPN, you'll have to buy them on iTunes (titles linked above) or YouTube: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind; Princess Mononoke. Totally worth the purchase.
🐮 In case you missed it: today is the official launch of the long awaited book, Sacred Cow. If you buy the book and submit your receipt here, which you should still be able to do today, you'll get a whole bunch of bonuses listed here. That includes a preview link to the yet to be released accompanying film, also Sacred Cow, which is narrated by Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec). I haven't read the book yet, and I hate when people recommend books they haven't read, but I've seen excerpts and heard both co-authors Diana Rodgers and Robb Wolf, who I've been following for quite a while, speak about some of its chapters, and I'm sure it's going to shine a light on the fallacies of plant-based and vegan rhetoric and bring truth to the muddled conversation. If you're at all curious about meat and its environmental, ethical, and nutritional impact, or if you've been frustrated or even swept up by the plant-based hype, this is a necessary read.
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Betting the farm,