Leah Penniman on Black Earth Wisdom

On March 31, Leah Penniman joined Garrison Institute co-founder Jonathan P. Rose for a conversation about how farming and living in deep connection with land can heal and fortify the planet and ourselves. Leah is founding co-Executive Director and Farm Director of Soul Fire Farm in Grafton, New York, a Black and Brown led project that works toward food and land justice. In addition, Leah is author of Farming While Black and Black Earth Wisdom: Soulful Conversations with Black Environmentalists

During the discussion, Leah described life and work as a farmer in deep connection. At Soul Fire Farm, polycultures integrate trees, pasture, and forage: rows of apple, peach, and cherry trees grow above a layer of currants and elderberries, with a layer of herbaceous pollinator favorites like bee balm and Echinacea further below, and goats and chickens moving through as they graze, grow, and fertilize. 

Along with a community supported agriculture model, Soul Fire Farm provides experiential courses to thousands of people and opportunities for affordable food access that address legacies of food apartheid. 

Farming is also an opportunity to perform a sacred duty to emulate how afro-indigenous ancestors farmed in ways that fed people and regenerated the earth. Black Earth Wisdom is about the deeper why, the fundamental shifts in worldview that cultivate kinship and deep relationship with Earth. 

Leah shared about inspirational conversations with scientists who also have a spiritual connection with nature. Leah explored lessons about cooperation, generosity, and interdependence, and spoke about the importance of Black farmer movements in rural and urban settings. 

The forum was a celebration of work that regenerates and reconnects people, places, and communities. Watch the full conversation:

This interactive online event was part of a continuing series in the Garrison Institute’s Forum on Pathways to Planetary Health

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