– Tony Nguyen, Solidaridad intern
“I am so out of my element.” That is a thought I often have when doing work for SAF. The reason why I wanted to work here was because I knew that I needed experience on the policy, justice, and non-profit side of things with respect to the sustainable agriculture movement which I have been in for the past four years. So in a sense, I knew full well going in that there would be a lot of unknowns starting out. And yet, I am so surprised at just how out of touch I am with the work that SAF is trying to accomplish. You see, my experience with sustainable farming has led me to think only in terms of ecological sustainability. Until now, I had only thought of farming discretely in terms of soil practices, carbon-offsetting techniques, and ecological regeneration. And then I came to SAF.
Here, I realized right quickly that that was not what we were talking about. Instead, we were first and foremost talking about the basic health and well-being of farmworkers—real human beings —who in this day and age are primarily Hispanic migrants and refugees from Central America, and all over the world. Here at SAF, we are talking about basic human rights. I was surprised that we were not talking about crop rotations and perennial planting, but rather getting real people clean and comfortable housing, and various other things that I often take for granted as a privileged American citizen. Indeed, I was surprised at my own surprise!—given that I have spent a lifetime with-and-among immigrants and internationals both here at home and abroad. It is unsettling. It is frustrating. And yet, I am also grateful to have this sobering experience as a reminder that the work in front of me—though vast and complex—is nevertheless what I am called to enter into—with courage and hope.
At the end of the month of February, SAF will be hosting an event for Black History Month to celebrate and share in the lives of Black sharecroppers and tenant farm workers here in North Carolina. We will be hosting it at Faithfull Farms (pictured above), a local organic farm in Chapel Hill owned and operated by Howard Allen, my former boss, and a proud Jamaican. I worked for him last year when I began grad school and I had gotten connected with him through a mutual friend of ours. Needless to say, I am personally excited that SAF is getting to host the event at Howard’s farm because for me it will bring together everything that I have come to care for with regards to farming in America—ecologically sustainable techniques and practices, morally sound agricultural economy and human rights, and responding to the deeply racial(ist) dimensions of farming in America and by cultivating a place of mutuality, benevolence, belonging, and conviviality.