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Planting seeds of greatness and health

Food justice talk promotes farming, entrepreneurship

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Henry & Co. via Unsplash

LOUISVILLE — Samantha “Foxx” Winship of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, wants to reshape the image of what it is to be a farmer and reclaim the practice of growing food as a source of empowerment for African Americans.

“I want my kids to say, ‘You know what? My mama was a farmer, and I’m proud of that,’ and I want another kid to say that same thing: ‘My mom or dad was a beekeeper or a farmer, and guess what? They are like the president. They are like gold to me. They are like royalty to me,’ and that type of thing, and that not to be erased from us.”

Winship, a farmer and beekeeper with Mother’s Finest Urban Family Farms, shared her thoughts during a Union Presbyterian Seminary webinar called “Just Food: Grow, Sell, Eat.”

Winship, who is African American, noted that over the years, farming has become associated with being downtrodden or with being a sharecropper because of “what our ancestors went through,” but “we really need to just get together, think local, buy local, think small, get involved, do something, be self-empowered,” she said. There is “something beautiful at the end of this.”

The discussion was part of the “Just Talk/Talk Just” webinar series by Union’s Center for Social Justice and Reconciliation and the Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership. Watch the discussion here.

The Rev. Melanie C. Jones, director of the Katie Cannon Center, was the moderator of the discussion, which included Winship and a second panelist, Derrick Weston of the Food and Faith Storytelling Collective.

In opening remarks, Jones set the stage for the discussion, noting that “increasing concerns of hunger and food insecurity persist, even in the world’s greatest food-producing nation. Economic, racial and geographical factors contribute to the unequal access and distribution of food in rural and urban communities. People of color and low-income households often face the most injury by dominant food systems that sustain diet-related illnesses and poor health outcomes.”

Weston, who manages a community garden in Baltimore, discussed how practices and policies, such as redlining, white flight and locating grocery stores in suburbs, have contributed to food inequities.

For example, “In a lot of our urban communities, you have liquor stores, you have corner stores that have mostly packaged foods that are filled with sugar, filled with fats, filled with salt, and then you have the health disparities that come along with eating those foods,” said Weston, who co-hosts the Food and Faith Podcast. “Those are things that come from having a diet that is designed to keep you sick.”

Winship, who also expressed concern about community health, advocates growing your own food and being taught how to do so from childhood.

“I think that every child, number one, should have the ability to learn about growing their own food,” she said. “It should not be separated into something that is for privatized school systems because when we look at it, and we go into privatized schools, we see them learning how to grow food, we see them eating the food that they’re growing, and it’s really jaw-dropping because then it does become a status thing,” she said.

Winship, who sells items at farmers markets and online, also believes in promoting farming as a form of economic empowerment. “This food can not only feed you and your family, but you can operate a business like I’m operating a business,” she said. “I’m a prime example of somebody who is being an entrepreneur in farming in 2021, along with my family.”

North Carolina farmer Samantha “Foxx” Winship spoke during a Union Presbyterian Seminary food justice webinar that also featured Derrick Weston of the Food and Faith Storytelling Collective (top right) and the moderator, the Rev. Melanie C. Jones, director of the Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership. (Screenshot from YouTube)

The webinar closed with the panelists being asked what people can do right now to fight against food injustice.

“To the extent that you can, grow your food,” Weston said. “To the extent that you can, know the people who are growing your food.”

He also suggested divesting from “big systems” that push unhealthy products and urged churches to get involved by putting more focus on health and using church land to produce food.

“Jesus didn’t just care about people’s souls. Jesus cared about healing people’s bodies, and the church has to get back to that,” he said.

Winship said she loved the idea of churches getting involved. “Let’s make the churches a big farmers market,” she said. “I am here for that type of energy.”

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