Vanguard Ranch Visits BME by Matt Darring, CSG Garden Coordinator at Burnley-Moran

Posted by on Nov 15, 2017 | Comments Off on Vanguard Ranch Visits BME by Matt Darring, CSG Garden Coordinator at Burnley-Moran

Vanguard Ranch Visits BME by Matt Darring, CSG Garden Coordinator at Burnley-Moran
Do a google image search for “American Farmer” and up will pop image after image of people on farms looking out at the horizon, or at the soil, or climbing onto a tractor. If you look at the pattern of faces you will notice a trend. Without scrolling my search shows me 60 images. Of those only 2 are of a woman without a man in the image, and only one has a person of color and he is male. Three of the images have machines and no visible people, and five of the images contain a livestock animal of some sort. The rest are predictable images of white men wearing blue jeans in fields of grain. This is the image of a farmer in our world, and it is a myth. If you took all of the food in the world and put it into 10 gigantic piles, 7 of those piles were grown by women. If you spend any decent amount of time at a typical farm in America, chances are most of the people you work with are going to be people of color. It is time for an interruption to this image.
Natasha Bowens set out to create just that sort of interruption when she took on the project to write the book The Color of Food: Stories of Race, Resilience, and Farming. The book contains story after story of entire groups of people put down, short changed, neglected, ignored, and even persecuted. And still they rise. Like a phoenix from the sins of hate they glide on green flames of farms. From the Gullah farms in South Carolina to Asian tropical wonderlands in California, from water sharing farms in desert southwest to the land loss prevention project in North Carolina; the book chronicles the plight, struggles, and resilience of the real farmers of America. Not the myth.
One story is of a couple who lived in DC. They were part of an offshoot of the civil rights movement that was built around getting back to the land. The idea is that the land does not care what color you are. There is no unemployment on the land. The land is the key to self-sufficiency, freedom, and maybe, eventually, respect. They had grown up in urban areas like DC, and did not know the first thing about farming. They had to learn, study, and figure it out. Their names are Renard and Chinette Turner, and their farm, Vanguard Ranch, is in Gordonsville, VA. It is time for the interruption to come to Charlottesville.
Renard, Chinette, and one of their goats came to Burnley-Moran Elementary on October 13th. All of the students wanted to know the name of the goat. Since Vanguard Ranch grows meat goats, they are not pets, and therefore they do not have names. Renard says that all of his male goats are named “Cash” and all of his female goats are named “Flow.” The goat they brought was female, so I guess we can call her Flow. My strategy in bringing the Turners to Burnley-Moran was threefold. First, they are just very cool people and successful farmers who learned this after growing up in an urban environment. Therefore, these students could see that they too could be farmers if they so choose. Second, I need for the students at Burnley-Moran to understand that not all farmers fit the myth – not by a long shot. Thirdly, I wanted someone that the students of color at Burnley-Moran could identify with immediately.
After the domestic terrorism events of the summer it is easy to look on this as trite or predictable, and I can see how you would land on that conclusion. The broader picture is not so simple. Food justice is racial justice many times. Environmental justice is racial justice many times. Schools with gardens are shown time and time again as being more fair and equitable. CSG has worked with Ruth King and the Food Justice Network to bring the concepts of equity and justice into our mission long before anybody lit a tiki torch in anger. We teach about Wormley Hughes to give the story of Thomas Jefferson a depth that it cannot have without gardens. We teach about George Washington Carver as one of the premier soil scientists of our time, not just some effigy to haul out every February. It is time for an interruption, and on Friday, October 13, 2017, we brought the farm to the school and put a huge dent in the myth.