Happy Juneteenth & Summer Solstice
Today is Juneteenth.
When we talk about a vision for a sustainable, just, food and farming system, there is a temptation to talk about it as a return to something we once had. After all, the industrialized food system only accounts for the last 100 years, out of the 10,000 we’ve been farming! Unfortunately, there isn’t a perfect past to return to. Once we figured out how to turn soil to grow food, we began harming the land and people in the process. Civilizations, from the Sumarians to the Mayans, have been set back by badly managed farming. It started long before the advent of the moldboard plow, chemical fertilizer, or our own Dust Bowl.
In America, when we talk about sustainable food, it often leads to an agricultural nostalgia that tends to ignore the original sins which shaped our farming and our country: land theft and slavery.
Today our farm is closed, to honor Juneteenth and the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans. It is a good time to reflect on what a more just, and sustainable food system might look like. It certainly isn’t as simple as a return to the past.
Juneteenth is also a chance to learn about our shared histories. Our farm sits near the base of Quaker Hill. The underground railroad had safe houses on the hill. You can learn more about the region’s role in the antislavery movement, from the Hudson River Valley Institute’s Mid-Hudson Antislavery History Project. And if you want to learn more about where to celebrate Juneteenth today, here is a list of local events.
Today is bright and blue. But last week the sky was darkened with smoke from Canadian wildfires. In spite of the ominous haze, the days are becoming longer than ever. And on Wednesday, it will be Solstice, the longest day of the year. One of my heroes, Pete Seeger, sang how it is always darkest before the dawn. But he didn't name the song “darkest before the dawn;” he named the song, “Quite Early Morning.” For him, this was a time of optimism about what we might create together. Something that hasn’t yet been created.