• Marie Tattiana Aqeel

Why Farm Food Is So Important

I came back home to DC in 2013, after spending two years in the Bay Area, California where I was introduced to large scale cannabis farming. At the time, I wasn't sure if I even wanted to be a farmer. I had a little background in using food and dietary herbs as nutritional supplements. I had cured my own staph infection and staved off years of the common cold. I had followed stories of people using food and herbs to cure issues with eyesight, shrink tumors, reverse allergies. I believe in the power of food. Like all great gifts of the earth, the power of food can be harnessed to give life or processed to take it away.

I’ve been a singer all of my life. Both of my parents were musicians, both are deceased, and both of them suffered from food-related diseases in their lifetimes. Both of them grew up economically poor, and although my mom ate mostly fresh “og” (original/organic, pre-genetic modification) garden food until she was 13 years old, neither of them knew about how the food industry would impact their lives and the lives of countless others up to today. A popular documentary out now called “What the Health” just touches on the disparity of human health in areas that are poor and Black in a segment on how pig processing “farms” are situated only in poor, Black areas of North Carolina, polluting air and water, killing area wildlife, and creating a penetrating stench that can be smelled from miles away. There’s much more to the story of how Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Pacific Islander folks have suffered from internal and external pollution, food and medical apartheid, illegal land seizures and obstruction to economic development at the hands of White-supremacist decision makers.

This and last summer I participated in the Black and Latinx Farmer Immersion program at Soul Fire Farm in upstate NY. They’re a family run farm with a mission to dismantle racism in the food system and offer programming to Black, Brown, and White folks alike uncovering the hidden history of racism in the agricultural industry and timelining how Black, Brown, and poor white folks have resisted the system for the entirety of its existence. They offer knowledge and support to aspiring Black and Brown farmers of all ages, nationalities, genders, and sexualities. It is with them last year, that I first dreamt up the summer Garden Concert series. I knew that I had to proclaim the intersections of wellness and Blackness and artistry and economic sovereignty and ownership. I know that Black and Brown folks have a strong legacy of farming food that predates 400 years of kidnapping and enslavement. I know that our African ancestors braided okra seeds and rice kernels into their hair before they were boarded on ships. I know that Latinx and Indigenous people use metaphors that relate farming to justice. I know that traditional people have valued seed-saving, planting and land ownership as a means to freedom and their messages of sovereignty have been passed down for hundreds of years.

This is why I am hosting the Garden Concert, a platform for Black and Brown musicians and gardeners to say something meaningful with their art. We get our supply of food for the event from local Black-run farms - EcoCity, Good Sense, Three Part Harmony, THEARC, and we’re always looking for more. Chef Sabine Jeanty curates a new menu for each event based on the availability of crops in that season, and what she creates is elevated cuisine with a backyard rustic vibe. We’d like to start spotlighting local Black and Brown owned brewers to round out the whole intention. We plan, cultivate, make and brew, own and operate, and create our own version of sovereignty through communal effort so that we all may eat and be filled with goodness, listen and dance with inspiration, support and be supported in action.

Come hungry and knowing that your existence will be uplifted.

With love and admiration,

Tattiana Aqeel

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