black food justice
Faced with an empty lot in the Bronx, NY, Karen Washington decided to start growing.
“I had no knowledge. I took some seeds and put them in the ground. I knew that they needed water and sun – I just did it.”
That was in the 1980s. Since then, Washington has become a practiced urban and rural farmer and community activist. However, she warns, “When someone says they’re an expert in farming and gardening, they’re not. Because it’s mother nature… and you’re always learning.”
Washington points to elders as an important source of learning. By picking the brains of those who had farmed and gardened before her, she was able to make her first forays in the soil.
Then in 2008, Washington attended a six-month program with The Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
While Shakara Tyler didn’t grow up on a farm, the doctoral student learned to love the land and developed an interest in food justice in her home city of Philadelphia.
Tyler completed her master’s in the Department of Community Sustainability (CSUS) at Michigan State University in August 2013. Her master’s thesis concerned Michigan black farm owners’ perceptions of USDA loan programs. Now, she’s working and pursuing a Ph.D. at MSU and doing research on farmers in underserved communities.
Seedstock recently spoke to Tyler to learn more about her farming background, pursuit of food justice,