Leah Penniman – Farming While Black: Uprooting Racism and Seeding Sovereignty

Our most cherished sustainable farming practices, from organic agriculture to the farm cooperative, have roots in African wisdom, but discrimination and violence against African-American farmers have led to their decline from 14% of all growers in 1920 to less than 2% today. Furthermore, Black communities suffer disproportionately from food apartheid. Renowned longtime farmer, educator, author, and food sovereignty activist, Leah Penniman, explains the deep roots of this land loss and food injustice and shares the work she at Soul Fire Farm and others around the country in Black and Brown farming communities are doing to reclaim ancestral rights, renew ties to the land, achieve genuine agency in the food system, and advance food sovereignty. (Leah is also the sister of frequent Bioneers presenter Naima Penniman, half of the brilliant musical/spoken-word duo, Climbing PoeTree.)

Leah Penniman delivered this talk at the Bioneers 2020 Conference, introduced by Nina Simons.

Read an excerpt from Farming While Black here, and learn how to purchase a copy for 35% off!


Leah Penniman is a Black Kreyol farmer, mother, Vodun Manye (Queen Mother), and award-winning food justice activist who has been tending the soil and organizing for an anti-racist food system for over 20 years. She currently serves as founding Co-Executive Director of Soul Fire Farm in Grafton, New York, a people-of-color led project that works toward food and land justice, which she co-founded in 2010. She is the author of: Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land.

Soul Fire Farm is an Afro-Indigenous centered community farm committed to uprooting racism and seeding sovereignty in the food system. Their food sovereignty programs reach over 10,000 people each year, including farmer training for Black and Brown growers, reparations and land return initiatives for northeast farmers, food justice workshops for urban youth, home gardens for city-dwellers living under food apartheid, doorstep harvest delivery for food insecure households, and systems and policy education for public decision-makers.

Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land

In Farming While Black, Leah Penniman offers the first comprehensive manual for African-heritage people ready to reclaim their rightful place of dignified agency in the food system. This one-of-a-kind guide provides readers with a concise “how-to” for all aspects of small-scale farming. 100% of the profits from this book will be donated to Black Farmers.

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