Reconnecting to our food roots

March 3, 2022

Project Humanities discusses how to make food more accessible and equitable for all

Although there is a long history of communities growing their own food, there has been a recent increase in the number of people finding alternatives to grocery shopping.

In fact, a whole generation of influencers are using social media to teach people how to grow and find food in their homes, backyards, greenhouses, and community gardens.

This is what scholars and community members call food sovereigntyFood sovereignty is a food system in which the people who produce, distribute and consume food also control the mechanisms and policies of food production and distribution. Source: Wikipedia.. It was the subject of a Project Humanities live event on March 1 titled “Food Sovereignty and Agriculture as Resistance.”

“A lot of people think of gardening as a hobby or a way to spend less on groceries. But for Indigenous, Black, and other people of color, food sovereignty is about decolonial practices and approaches to restoring traditional cultural knowledge, protecting the environment, restoring health, and economic independence,” said Alycia de Mesa, Associate Director of Project Humanities and host of the event. “Choosing what you eat, where it comes from, and how food is grown, stored, and prepared empowers individuals, tribal, and urban communities to promote and benefit from cultural, health, economic, environmental, and social well-being. “

De Mesa moderated a panel that included Jameela Pugh, a black farmer from Arizona and owner of EnviroFarm Ranch Market; Jacob Butler, a member of the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian community and president of Native Seed Search, a Tucson-based seed-saving organization; Twila Cassadore, member of the San Carlos Apache tribe and professional caterer and food vendor; George Brooks, Founder, President and CEO of NxT Horizon, an agricultural technology consulting firm that grows healthy foods; and Angela Brooks, a master gardener who is widely known as the “Green Garden Chick” on social media and uses her platform to offer farming/gardening/ecological advice to her followers.

The panel covered a wide variety of topics, such as food justice, health, culture, colonialism, slavery, sustainability and the pandemic.

Since the start of the pandemic, food sovereignty has made a comeback. Some of the calls include a reduced carbon footprint, self-sufficiency, better health, and the ability to serve others in the community.

Humanities Project Associate Director Alycia de Mesa (top center) moderates an online panel on food sovereignty and agriculture as resistance on March 1. Panelists include George Brooks (top left), Jacob Butler (top right), Angela Brooks (bottom left), Twila Cassadore (bottom right) and Jameela Pugh, who later joined the event .

“The pandemic was a horrible circumstance, but it forced people to reprogram how to live, how to survive,” said Angela Brooks, owner of Millbrook Urban Farms in South Mountain and growing a variety of herbs, fruits, flowers and vegetables. “I saw a big increase in self-sufficient gardening, and it was wonderful.”

Twila Cassadore said indigenous peoples have a rich agricultural history and the land informs them of what to eat and what to grow.

“Beautiful greens are growing in the mountains right now, including three species of lettuce,” said Cassadore, a traditional picker who works on a number of community health issues and cultural preservation projects. “For each season, there (is) a different variety of foods. … I let Mother Nature take care of what food she wants to give me.

Cassadore said Mother Nature was interrupted in the mid-1900s with mass agricultural production and suddenly growing your own food was frowned upon.

“This economic industry came in and shunned people because they didn’t want to be stereotyped as poor,” Cassadore said. “It changed the mentality of people where if you couldn’t buy groceries, ‘You must be poor.'”

Shoppers have also complained about the high price of organic food and meat, but they don’t know the love and sweat it takes to harvest crops or keep animals, Pugh said.

“Someone will come into my store and order five chickens and I’ll tell them the price. I tell them and they say, ‘Wow, that’s expensive!’ “Pugh said. “But if you walk into a big farm store where you don’t know where it came from, what it ate or how it was processed, and you just look at the price of 2, $99 a pound over quality is a big difference. But if they try it and see a huge difference in their health, it’s worth it.

Until the pandemic, people lost their connection to where their food comes from and how it’s grown, Jacob Butler said. But, he added, they are starting to get it back.

“We need to develop a better relationship with the environment and the things that grow there,” said Butler, whose organization frequently visits homeowners and teaches them how to grow a personal or community garden and gives them the seeds to get started. “In two months you can eat your own crops, and that’s a great thing.”

George Brooks said that now that attitudes towards food sovereignty are starting to change, many people want to get into farming but cannot because of various obstacles.

“I’ve sat in rooms full of people in urban areas who want to get into farming,” Brooks said. “Yet they can’t because they don’t have the land or the money to make a profit. That’s what they’re told, so they give up at this point.

Angela Brooks said people can come and taste her food, but at some point they’ll have to grab a hoe or garden tool and get their hands dirty.

“Yeah, you’re going to work for your food, because I want people to smell it, eat it, taste it, digest it,” said Brooks, who runs a community garden in her home and grows watermelons, onions, peppers. , tomatoes and edible flowers. “Touching, smelling, smelling and eating the taste of real food is a game-changer for people.”

Top image courtesy of iStock/Getty Images


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