Julius Nyerere, Tanzanian activist explained, "To us in Africa land was always recognized as belonging to the community. Each individual within our society had a right to use the land, because otherwise he could not earn his living and one cannot have the right to life without also having a right to some means of maintaining life. But the African's right to land was simply the right to use it; he had no other right to it, nor did it occur to him to try and claim one." Our people have stewarded land in common for much longer than we have acquiesced to the Western notions of enclosure and private property. Join Leah Penniman of the Soul Fire Farm Land Stewardship Coop in a discussion of the cooperative model of land tenure. Following the journey of Soul Fire Farm's relationship with the land, we will explore the legal, financial, ecological, and interpersonal aspects of coop formation.
Leah Penniman (li/she/ya/elle) is a Black Kreyol farmer/peyizan, mother, soil nerd, 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. Leah is part of a team that facilitates powerful food sovereignty programs - including farmer training for Black and Brown growers, reparations and land return initiatives for northeast farmers, food justice workshops for urban youth, home gardens for city-dwellers living under food apartheid, doorstep harvest delivery for food insecure households, and systems and policy education for public decision-makers. Leah has been farming since 1996, holds an MA in Science Education and a BA in Environmental Science and International Development from Clark University, and is a Manye (Queen Mother) in Vodun. Leah trained at Many Hands Organic Farm, Farm School MA, and internationally with farmers in Ghana, Haiti, and Mexico. She also served as a high school biology and environmental science teacher for 17 years. The work of Leah and Soul Fire Farm has been recognized by the Soros Racial Justice Fellowship, Fulbright Program, Grist 50, and James Beard Leadership Award, among others. 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.