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Racial and ethnic disparities are sadly alive and well when it comes to health outcomes, land ownership, and how food is grown in the US. White farmers are at an overwhelming advantage when it comes to owning land and they see the greatest benefit from the 97% of the income generated by it. Additionally, lack of access to land and fresh food is a form of oppression that sets communities up for generational illness and strife. These are serious racial and ethnic inequalities happening in our current day and age, but they stem from the long-standing structural discrimination that our agricultural system is rooted in. In this minisode, Dr. Hyman explores these topics with Karen Washington and Leah Penniman.
Karen Washington is a farmer, activist, and food advocate. She is the Co-owner and Farmer at Rise & Root Farm in Chester, New York. In 2010, Karen Co-Founded Black Urban Growers (BUGS), an organization supporting growers in both urban and rural settings. In 2012, Ebony magazine voted her one of the 100 most influential African Americans in the country, and in 2014 Karen was the recipient of the James Beard Leadership Award. Karen serves on the boards of the New York Botanical Gardens, SoulFire Farm, the Mary Mitchell Center, Why Hunger, and Farm School NYC.
Karen shares her inspiring story of how starting a garden in her backyard in The Bronx led her to understand the bigger issues of food insecurity in underserved communities. As a former physical therapist looking into her patients’ health, she noticed Black and Brown clients were suffering with poor diet and inaccessibility to healthy foods, while white communities were not.
Leah Penniman is a Black Kreyol educator, farmer, author, and food justice activist from Soul Fire Farm in Grafton, NY. She co-founded Soul Fire Farm in 2010 with the mission to end racism in the food system and reclaim our ancestral connection to land.
As Co-Executive Director, Leah is part of a team that facilitates powerful food sovereignty programs—including farmer training for Black and Brown people, a subsidized farm food distribution program for communities living under food apartheid, and domestic and international organizing toward equity in the food system. Her book, Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land is a love song for the land and her people.
From a young age, Leah had a deep reverence for nature and the land. This led her to learn about historical regenerative farming practices and share that knowledge with others. It also led her to a greater understanding of our food system and why it’s a major propellor in racial inequality. President Johnson’s 1865 overturn of General William Sherman’s “40 acres and a mule” Order had massive implications for the future of Black farmers that we are still feeling the consequences of today.
This episode is brought to you by BetterHelp. BetterHelp lets you get affordable counseling anytime, from anywhere. As a Doctor’s Farmacy listener you can get 10% off right now by going to betterhelp.com/drhyman.
Find Dr. Hyman’s full-length conversation with Karen Washington, “A Way Out Of Food Racism And Poverty” here.
Find Dr. Hyman’s full-length conversation with Leah Penniman, “Why Food Is A Social Justice Issue” here.