I attended the February 11, 2014, CFF Urban Agriculture Working Group briefing about the forthcoming book–Beyond the Kale: Urban Agriculture and Social Justice Activism in New York City–and found the afternoon to be extremely interesting, engaging, and informative.
Nevin Cohen and Kristin Reynolds, authors of the book, shared key findings from their participatory, practitioner/activist-centered academic research. Urban ag community leaders (“visionaries” and “heroes” apply) then moved things from the head to the heart, delivering impassioned, compelling testimony validating and further humanizing the research data; the briefing then opened into a discussion including the voices of those funders who were present around the table.
The day’s combination of academic analysis and activist/practitioner ground truth resulted in a remarkable briefing, one that transferred important, necessary, irrefutable knowledge and awareness of the structural oppression that continues to shape the urban ag landscape. The key to the event’s success was in having the voices of two exceptionally thoughtful and informed academics diving into the socioeconomic and political complexities and inequities in combination with the voices of Leticia Alanis, Ray Figueroa, Karen Washington, Yonnette Fleming, Maggie Cheney, and Tanya Fields.
Funders are, of course, all too often told what they want to hear. This briefing hewed closer to hard truths, articulately delivered with great passion.
There is an ongoing access chasm defined by race/class/gender that reinforces the status quo: longstanding urban ag community leaders of color in struggle to connect with desperately needed technical assistance, capacity development, and financing.
The result is that the “micro-hubs of food, education, and community” in low income neighborhoods that these practitioners have nurtured remain perpetually mired in a shortage of resources, while the mainstream media and a majority of large donors celebrate and support a constellation of urban ag projects that look very different in terms of race (primarily white leadership) and class.
I thank all of the participants and organizers for offering such an engaging briefing. If there was any doubt about the social injustices playing out across and within our burgeoning urban ag scene, the briefing went a long way toward dispelling such notions. Keeping this essential message front and center within CFF’s outreach to a broader constituency of funders–and exploring ways to facilitate action and support mobilizing more equitable access–these seem key to our work ahead.
You can view a recording of the full event below