When Leah Penniman was 21, she lived in Ghana for six months. One night she had a dream that changed her life, in which she planted maize on a mountain and heard words she didn’t understand.
So she went to the local priest, who said these words were from the old language of the Krobo, the ethnic group in eastern Ghana. He urged her to be initiated as a “queen mother,” a spiritual leader in their community, so she could take their teachings about “tending the soil” as a sacred practice back to the United States. That’s exactly what she did.
Today, Penniman is the co-founder and project manager of Soul Fire Farm in upstate New York, an organic farm that incorporates indigenous African growing techniques, including worm composting, raised beds, cover cropping and no-till fields. It’s also a teaching farm that’s training a new generation of people of color to become activist-farmers.
Penniman has emerged as a national leader in food sovereignty and environmental justice issues. She’s the author of “Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land,” which she discussed with me for “To The Best Of Our Knowledge.”
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