By Kate Hamilton, CAGJ Intern
On May 20 CAGJ hosted a Teach-Out at Kamayan Farm with farmer Ari de Leña, who gave the keynote at the 2017 SLEE Dinner (watch “Farming for Cultural and Ecological Resilience“). Check out Teach-Out photos on Facebook!
Kamayan Farm is located in the Snoqualmie Valley near Carnation. The farm got its name from a style of communal eating in the Philippines in which a variety of food sits directly on banana leafs and the only utensils at play are your own hands. Kamayan Farm places the spirit of this style of eating at the heart of its mission. It’s a space for community to gather and get their hands dirty, all while learning, healing, and making connections in the process.
We began the day with introductions. Going around the circle, we shared our name, preferred pronouns, relation to CAGJ or Kamayan Farm, and answered the obligatory introduction question that lets you peer into the innermost depths of someone’s soul: if you could turn a vegetable into your own personal carriage, which vegetable would you choose and why? I knew it was a great group when everyone chose a vegetable they would want to munch on while riding in it.
After introductions we had the pleasure of getting to know the amazing farmer Ari de Leña, who shared why she chose to be a farmer, having worked previously on farm policy and in other lines of work. Ari’s mission is multifaceted, but its overarching drive is to transform the the food system from its current corporate, mechanized, and impersonal state, to a more egalitarian one in which individuals have access to produce that is both nourishing and culturally appropriate. In a food system that subsidizes staples like corn and wheat that are easily processed into cheap products, making a livable wage as a small-scale farmer using methods that respect the land is an uphill battle, but an act of resistance that is important as ever.
Ari seeks to reconnect people with the land, especially low income communities and communities of color, and she does this through workshops and by making CSA veggie boxes accessible to more people by fundraising to subsidize the price of some of the shares.
Once we were familiar with each other and Ari’s work, it was time to get moving and sink our hands into some soil! For the next few hours, the group planted squash starts and a variety of flowers along twenty foot rows, and we even began to build a hoop-house structure for her tomatoes. There’s something deeply satisfying about getting to know someone while you’re both engaging in the mindful task of digging a small home in the earth for your food. There’s an intimacy in this, both with the land and the community you’re working with.
In the closing circle, the group discussed three questions: What do you know about our local food system? What needs to happen to make the food system more just? What will you take from today? In the rich discussion of food sovereignty that came out of these questions, there was one enthusiastic and unanimous theme that threaded through each response: today’s Teach-Out was an inspiring display of the first steps towards food sovereignty in action!