Spotlight: Soul Fire Farm

September 02, 2021 2 Comments

Spotlight: Soul Fire Farm

We have talked about sustainability, urban gardening and knowing where your food comes from. It feels as if we are in the middle of a revolution: People are starting to focus on and spread the word about the importance of farming and working off of the land! Working on a farm or in your garden (or microgreen garden 😉) can be very therapeutic and healing for the soul too. At Hamama, we love to spotlight different organizations that are bringing awareness to the importance of gardening/farming and the effect that it can have on an entire community. That is why this week we are so excited to introduce our readers to Soul Fire Farm!

Soul Fire Farm uses farming as a way to combat racism and fight food inequality particularly for the Afro-Indigenous community. It is not just the regular farming that we know; it is farming with a spiritual connection to the land. They understand that Earth communicates and provides life to us, and when farming they listen to what the Earth has to say by using practices and wisdom passed down from their ancestors. The entire process is beautiful to witness and it’s so encouraging to see that many black and brown people are reclaiming their connection to this earth!

Soul Fire Farm is very intentional and transparent on how they tend to the land while farming. In their work, they make it a point to primarily use Afro-Indigenous practices. I’ll share some of their practices below and you can also find these located on their website here:

 No Till: Rather than rototill the soil to add air and remove weeds, they use heavy mulches to smother the weeds and encourage the worms to do the aeration. This helps keep the carbon in the soil, where it belongs, rather than releasing it into the air. 

Cover Crops: Nature never leaves the soil bare. Just as Dr. George Washington Carver encouraged, we use cover crops like peas, oats, and buckwheat to protect the soil from erosion and add important nutrients.

Compost and Manure: They produce as much fertility on site as possible by composting manure from their livestock and crop residues. Cleopatra knew the value of the earthworm in creating compost and went to great measure to encourage their proliferation. Women farmers in Ghana and Liberia produced “African Dark Earth” by combining ash and residue. They emulate these practices to enrich their soils with organic matter and nutrients. 

Polyculture: Rather than planting a whole field in just one crop, they integrate dozens of crops in each section. Modeled after the Haitian “jaden lakou” they have fruit trees interspersed among mint, bee balm, and chamomile and other medicines. In their “milpa” they learn from the Mohican farmers, who are the original stewards of this land, about the integration of corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers. 

Raised Beds: Just as the Ovambo people have mounded their soils for centuries to control water flow and increase crop root depth, they grow all of their crops in raised beds. Their heavy clay soils rely on the pathways for drainage and the raised growing areas reduce compaction. 

Heritage Crops & Seedkeeping: They grow dozens of native crops as well as culturally significant African heritage crops. Some of their cherished plant friends at the farm include bee balm, echinacea, moyamensing tomato, West African garden egg, pwa congo, Lenape blue corn, and Eritrean basil. Each year, theysave 3-5 seed varieties that are distributed through the Truelove seed catalog.

Silvopasture: The integration of trees and pasture for livestock, is among the top solutions for climate healing in “Drawdown.” They raise small ruminants, like sheep, which are experts at surviving on native grasses and forage with minimal purchased feed. Their silvopasture system includes sugar maples and chestnuts integrated into the fields to provide shade, food, and windbreaks for the animals. 

Natural Building: The structures on the land are hand built using locally sourced and natural materials, like adobe, straw bales, and pine timbers. They heat the water primarily with solar energy and warm the buildings with the sun and efficient wood stoves. Whenever possible, they source recycled and reclaimed building materials and design for energy efficiency. The buildings are clustered into just 1.5 acres leaving the remaining acreage for nature.

As you can see everything is done with intention and purpose. The most amazing part is that by sticking with their Afro-Indigenous roots they naturally are sustaining the environment. Why is this such an important aspect to spotlight? Simply because for more years, black and brown people were forced to work other peoples land and then were forcibly removed from their own land. This type of treatment can make anyone feel as if they do not belong or have the right to this land. So the practices show that not only do the Afro-Indigenous people have a right to this land, but shows that they know just exactly what the earth needs to be sustained and thrive. 

Another great part about Soul Fire Farm is that they want to pass on this knowledge to other BIPOC people. They have multiple training opportunities that they hold on the farm. The training they provide is a Farming and Building Immersion program for two weeks. 

The Farming Immersion program will prepare the future farmers on how to grow and prepare food as well as regain the connection with the land. 

The Building Immersion program will provide the tools and knowledge for building and constructing in a sustainable way. 

Both programs are informative and provide exceptional training skills. To learn more you can visit their website here.  

As you can see, Soul Fire Farms is doing many amazing things! From their training programs, to the way they tend to the soil, to providing fresh food to be delivered to the doors of people in the Albany/Troy community in New York and so much more.

Work like this deserves to exist for a long time. If you would like to support Soul Fire Farm, you can donate to their foundation here. Also make sure that you check out their website https://www.soulfirefarm.org/ and follow them on Instagram at @soulfirefarm and subscribe to their YouTube channel here.

Go out and support the change-makers and be the change that the world needs to see!

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2 Responses

Brittany Hamama
Brittany Hamama

September 25, 2021

Hello Cynthia! So happy that you enjoyed this post about Soul Fire Farm! They are doing some really amazing things and we are so happy that we could spotlight them! Community gardens are so important. I am so sorry that you don’t have one where you live! I could not imagine how frustrating is has to be to have woodchucks take over your garden! So sorry about that! Hopefully you can get the same joy in your Tower Garden! It is so nice knowing that you can still have your fresh greens when growing indoors!

Cynthia Ann Robinson
Cynthia Ann Robinson

September 21, 2021

This is so amazing, all that is being done is just tremendous!
I would love to have a community garden where I live. There is one the next town over that has been doing pretty well. People who wish to have a plot, apply and are able to grow their own veggies. I used to have a garden but, I have a family of woodchucks that just never move on… and it has been years since I actually grew a garden, and last summer was a disaster because of this critter. Praying and opting for a Tower Garden just like the Green Bronx Machine… they are wonderful, and I can keep it indoors.

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