As a female in a traditionally male profession, and a farmer who leased land for many years, I (Emily) have sometimes been aware of my lack of privilege. But the reality is that cis white women such as myself often benefit the most from efforts to broaden opportunities to underserved populations. I have been the recipient of loans, and have been given opportunities for networking and access to resources in part because I am a woman. That is often not the reality for my colleagues who are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and/or Queer.
The most entrenched and insidious form of racism is not personal bias but the structures that keep inequality in place. This is just as true in farming as it is in every other part of our society. Land and labor are by far the two most expensive things in farming, and not coincidentally they historically have been and continue to be things most often stolen from BIPOCs.
In the U.S., land was stolen first from the indigenous people who lived here since time immemorial. Since then, BIPOCs who have gained ownership of land have had it stolen over and over again. Jim Crow laws, inheritance laws, tribal allotment, and internment of Japanese Americans during WWII are only a few examples of the legal means, some of which continue to this day, that white America has used to steal land from BIPOCs.
In a similar way, labor was stolen first through the legal institution of slavery. After slavery was abolished, theft of labor continued and continues in the form of sharecropping, prison labor, and different labor laws for agricultural workers.
Black Lives Matter. Indigenous Lives Matter. Immigrant Lives Matter. We white Americans owe BIPOC Americans a vast debt for the work they have done and continue to do, sometimes without consent, to build our country.
As a business owner, I have more power and responsibility to change the system than I would as an individual. Decisions I make for my business have a real impact on the lives of the people I employ, the people I do business with, and the people I feed.
In response to this urgent need for justice, I am working to center the cause of anti-oppression in my thinking about how I run my business and who I am growing food for. I am listening, reading, reflecting, reaching out to BIPOC community leaders and business owners, and making thoughtful changes that are action-oriented, not just words.
This work demands accountability. Please feel free to contact me with your thoughts, suggestions, or critiques.