Cultivating Justice: Episode 1

Cultivating Justice: Episode 1 150 150 Farmerama Radio


Welcome to Cultivating Justice! Our 6-part series in collaboration with Land In Our Names (LION) and Out on the Land (OOTL, part of The Landworker’s Alliance) which weaves together interviews, conversations, music and reflections from Black people, people of colour, trans people, queer people and women, on their relationships with land, growing, and identity.

Episode 1 is hosted by OOTL’s Hester Russell and LION’s Sam Siva. Woven throughout we are taken to the fields, pots and allotments of the chorus of land-based practitioners. We are treated to a sound piece ‘Eating your castings’ by Jas Butt and Hari Byles, made up of sounds that were recorded inside a wormery and a compost heap in an urban nature reserve in East London.

We hear from Paula Gioia about the organising work happening in Europe on issues relevant to LGBTQIA+ landworkers, as well as the roots of European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC)’s gender and sexuality articulation, and their Embracing Rural Diversity report

We drop in on a conversation between Sam Siva and Professor Corinne Fowler, recorded shortly after their keynote session at the ORFC22 on Land, Race and Empire. They discuss how systems of oppression are rooted in land ownership, issues around access to rural spaces for BPOC and people living in cities, and how to truly decolonise regenerative agriculture.

The Cultivating Justice podcast series is made by Hester Russell, Abby Rose, Dora Taylor, Katie Revell, Nadia Mehdi and Sam Siva. This episode featured conversations with Paula Gioia and Corinne Fowler. Reflections from Sasha aka MindYourOwnPlants, Dani Foster, Dav Singh, Tinisha Williams, Nancy Winfield, Srikanth Narayanan and Philomena de Lima and music by Jas Butt – a.k.a. Guest and Hari Byles, as well as Bianca Wilson, a.k.a. Island Girl. Our series music is by Taha Hassan.

Thank you to our funders, Farming the Future and the Roddick Foundation. And a big thank you to everyone who’s contributed in any way!

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Full episode transcript:

Sasha: So when I think about how growing and connecting to nature and landwork has given me the space to heal… it’s allowed me the space to recognize, it’s allowed me the space to connect with the inner child. It’s allowed me the space to connect with the things that I didn’t even know I wanted it to connect with. Growing a plant. Not an experience I had as a child. Looking after fish and just being with the earth, understanding the practices, connecting with other landworkers, being outside, growing sunflowers, like all of these things, have allowed me the space to heal in very mysterious ways.
Cultivating Justice
Dani: So there’s a kind of community garden that I’m part of in Edinburgh. And I took my own little plot. And it’s the first time I’ve done that, like on my own. And it was literally like, I think I grew, kale and broccoli, like, it was just like salad, kale and broccoli, something, but I was obsessed with it.
Like I was with the seedlings, I grew them in, in my room and then like I planted them and it’s like very small scale, and very simple, but I was so obsessed with them. I felt like they were like my little children or something. I think what I liked about is I could see how nurturing I can be. And I think that’s something that I like to see in myself maybe, being really slow and giving something a lot of care or like helping something come to life.I think that’s what I really enjoy about growing. I think maybe I didn’t expect things to actually grow. And so this kind of like celebration of yeah, it actually grew and I can eat it.
Dav: Working on the allotment, growing my own produce, sharing my own produce, importantly, and growing flowers and filling my home with, with flowers that I have grown. Doing things organically because that’s the way I want to do things and relying less on the supermarkets. Yeah. I feel, I feel healthier for that, and I’m really thankful for the allotment and for everything it provides. And I’m thankful for my small garden and for the peace it gives me as well.
Welcome to Cultivating Justice!
My name’s Hester Russell. I’m a grower and organiser for Out on the Land. And my name’s Sam Siva. I’m a grower, writer and organiser with Land In Our Names. 
Hester: The clips you heard at the start of this episode are part of something we’re calling a “chorus of voices”. The chorus weaves together reflections from Black people, people of colour, trans people and queer people, on their relationships with land, growing, and identity. You’ll hear these voices across the Cultivating Justice series.
Sam: Before we start, a heads-up that this series includes discussion of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and ableism. Please take care as you listen.
So… what IS Cultivating Justice? Well, it’s a collaborative project between three grassroots organisations: Land In Our Names, Out on the Land  – and Farmerama Radio. Land in Our Names, or LION, is a grassroots, London-based collective committed to reparations in Britain by connecting land and climate justice with racial justice.
We’re passionate about agro-ecological methods, and we see food justice and climate justice as essential parts of our work. We’re striving to create networks between BIPOC growers, herbalists, landworkers, ecologists and other land-based practitioners.
Hester: Out on the Land is part of the Landworkers’ Alliance. We’re a group of LGBTQIA landworkers who come together to celebrate each other and our connection to the land. We aim to create an emboldening space to discuss and challenge issues faced by our community and to raise our visibility within landwork.
Sam: The Cultivating Justice project is aiming to build lasting joy and justice for marginalised communities who are resisting colonial and patriarchal food and farming systems…
Hester: That includes women, people of colour, trans and queer people, and neurodivergent people.
Sam: We want to challenge stereotypes of who farms and what farming looks like…
Hester: And we want to explore ways that we – as marginalised people, organisations and allies – can build solidarity and develop shared visions to challenge the social injustices within our food and farming systems.
Sam: As part of this project, we’re also creating zines. The first one’s called “Gourds, Banjos and Callaloo”. It was made by Marcus – who’s another member of LION – and you can find a link to it in the shownotes for this episode.
Hester: The idea is for these podcasts to be kind of like audio zines – so across six episodes, we’ll be weaving together interviews, conversations and reflections, as well as music, performance art and field recordings.
Sam: All of these contributions – these stories, ideas, dreams, and voices – have been gathered from our networks. This is a grassroots, DIY project, just like our organising.
Hester: In this episode, we’ll be hearing an interview with landworker and activist Paula Gioia.
Sam: And part of a conversation I had with Professor Corinne Fowler, an academic and the author of “Green, Unpleasant Land”. The music you’re hearing right now is a track called “Eating your castings”, by Jas Butt and Hari Byles. It’s made up of sounds that Hari and Jas recorded inside a wormery and a compost heap in an urban nature reserve in East London.
Hester: You’re hearing worms, flies and woodlice shredding, digesting, and moving around, as well as some building works in the background.
Sam: The recordings were remixed by Jas – a.k.a. Guest, who turned them into a short, playful album for the Microbe Disco, which was part of a festival called Electric Dreams.
Hester: Paula Gioia is a beekeeper and landworker who’s part of a farming collective in eastern Germany.
Sam: It’s a mixed farm with a vegetable garden, a forest, goats, cattle, chickens – and, of course, bees.
Hester: Paula’s also part of the European Coordination of Via Campesina – or ECVC. That’s the regional European arm of the international peasants’ movement, La Via Campesina.
Sam: Along with other members of ECVC, Paula’s in the process of setting up the organisation’s “gender diversity articulation”.
Hester: So – what’s an articulation? Articulations bring people with particular experiences or perspectives together, so they can analyse and discuss ECVC’s work through that specific lens…
Sam: And that allows them to have a stronger voice and participate more effectively in ECVC’s working groups. There’s already articulations for women and youth
Hester: Before we hear from Paula, we wanted to briefly explain a few of the words that come up in this episode and series…
Sam: “cis”: short for cisgender. A cis person’s gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned when they were born.
Hester: “trans”: short for transgender. A trans person might identify with a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth – or with no particular gender. 
Sam: “hetero”: short for heterosexual.
Hester: “pronouns”: these are the words we use to talk about a person when we’re not using their name – like she/her, he/him, or they/them.
Sam: Paula also talks about “looking beyond binarities” in the context of gender – so moving away from the idea that there are only two distinct genders – male and female. Some people – like me – identify as non-binary which means we don’t identify as men or women…it’s a catch-all term for the many different ways that a person can be gender-fluid, without gender, or multiple genders.
Paula: Yeah, so my name is Paula Gioia. I’m originally from Brazil, but have been living in Germany for quite a while now, almost 20 years.
When it comes to pronouns, I have to say, this is always a very difficult question for me to answer. I navigate through different language. In my mother tongue, which is Portuguese, I don’t find a pronoun where I see myself, no? Also in the language I have my all-day life, which is German, it’s the same. Now this interview we are doing in English; I would say like English has a kind of solution that would work better, which is “they” pronoun. But at the same time, it’s like not a language that I have a deeper feeling, no? I don’t really get all the nuance that this could have in meaning, no? So, this whole story is to say that I would prefer to use no pronouns.
I was born in the urban areas in Rio de Janeiro. And then life brought me to Germany around 20 years later. Here in Germany, I lived in the beginning also in the urban areas and lived quite long in Berlin. And then I discovered let’s say the rural life, no? And one, two years later I did this shift in my life and went to agriculture and I’ve been doing that for over 10 years now, maybe 12 years, I guess.
Before, when I was still living in urban areas, I was already a politically engaged person, no? And for me it was clear that doing agriculture, there is also an extremely big political dimension in that, referring to the way you do it – or you don’t do it, you know? So it was quite obvious that when I took this decision to go into farming, I would, you know, engage myself politically, also in the topics that concern agriculture.
Sam: Soon after Paula got together with other new entrant farmers, and they set up an organisation called the “Bündnis Junge Landwirtschaft” or Alliance of Young Farmers – BJL for short! In the early days, the BJL’s main aim was to fight land grabbing that was happening in eastern Germany.
Hester: The BJL soon started working with the ABL, which is a German member of La Via Campesina. In 2013, Paula was invited to Jakarta, in Indonesia, to take part in La Via Campesina’s sixth international conference.
Paula: And from that moment, it went quite quickly. My engagement in the European and international levels.
Sam: Paula got involved with ECVC – that’s the umbrella organisation for La Via Campesina members in Europe. It has 31 member organisations across 21 European countries, including the UK.
Paula: We organize here in the region in Europe, towards the European policy agendas, but also bringing topics that our members considered important.
Hester: And specifically, Paula got involved with ECVC’s women’s articulation.
Sam: But… Paula realised that things just didn’t feel right.
Paula: Everything started not really planned, no? It was more kind of, you know, coming out of my feelings that around 2015, having participated in the international conference of La Via Campesina in Jakarta and where, of course there are very strong spaces of women articulation.
At some point I realized, okay, it is really good work and very, very important, but I don’t feel home. I mean, for me, it’s extremely important and impressive, how clear La Via Campesina has, you know, the values of feminism and, uh, how important it is to stand against patriarchy and so on.
So they can on one hand self organize themselves, but also, you know, strengthen themselves and come better articulated also to the general spaces. At that time I didn’t even know yet the whole history, and how much also the women had to struggle for their space in the movement, no? But what I could feel is that it was an important space, but that I didn’t feel home.
And that movement, which, you know, defends feminist values, which is system critical and so on, I knew that this movement wants to have me there, how I am, you know? But it’s not yet said, you know, and not giving visibility to that is also undermining issues that I have that I bring, and that I think are also important, which are also kind of violations, you know, discriminations and so on in the society, and that in the end, the movement is also reproducing – probably without willing to reproduce, but it’s doing so unconsciously. So that’s why I, at some point, I think it was around 2015 in one of the women assembly meetings, I prepared in advance a kind of discussion document that I could bring to the women assembly of ECVC. And I brought this document and it was the start of a discussion on that. And it was very nice to see how much support, you know, I got there.
Hester: Just to explain! The way it works in ECVC is that – before a general assembly happens – the various articulations hold their own assemblies.
It’s a chance for them to discuss, clarify, and strengthen their positions so they can then do a better job of advocating for them at the general assembly.
Sam: Normally, the coordinator of the women’s articulation would feed back to the general assembly about whatever they’ve discussed and decided.
But this time around – when it came to the discussion that Paula had sparked about gender diversity – the coordinator asked Paula to report back, instead…
Paula: She said, okay, I will do the feedback, but this point, you do. Okay, no problem, I can do. But in the end, it’s again, myself, you know, putting my body, you know, my feelings, my person, you know, again, in a situation of vulnerability. It’s a big step, I think, you know, to out yourself for the movement, you know, and I was outing myself in that moment for the women articulation for the women assembly, no? But then mthere was not this sensibility there to pick up the topic as a collective topic, no? So I had to do it. I did, it was okay, but I wish that we could have done different and I wish that in the future we can do it differently. But in general it was very good that we started it there in the general assembly.
There was huge support also from male members, and this actually empowered myself to keep doing this work. The political willingness was always there, but this has always been a topic with not a huge priority, no? It’s important that this is not a one person agenda, that this is a collective agenda. We had spaces, you know, workshops to talk about this where also, you know – cis, hetero members could come and discuss about that to create a sensibility step-by-step.
Also to have whole organizations, you know, coming out. For example, the Sindicato Labrego Galego one of our members – they came out as organization and organized their own LGBTQI forum in Galicia, for the first time. So making this step, which is kind of personal, you know, coming out, can generate also processes, collective processes also in the organizations.
Sam: How does this relate to what’s happening in the UK?
Hester: So, the work Paula’s done to push forward the visibility of gender and sexual minorities is really inspiring. And a lot of it resonates in a UK context, too.
Out On The Land really emerged from a desire and a need for LGBTQ landworkers just to meet and connect with each other. Since then, the LWA has facilitated us to become a working group and a collective voice within national spaces. But it’s not been an entirely smooth ride…
In 2018, one of our members from the LWA was part of the first ECVC LGBTQI gathering in Brussels. Since then, there’s been growing momentum to reimagine the agroecological movement – with queer folks out and at the forefront.
But we encountered transphobia along the way. It’s so often precisely the people whose bodies and humanity are being questioned that have to defend their right to exist and to speak up.It’s a painful collective learning process about how to do better at acting in solidarity and allyship. But despite the barriers, it’s exciting to feel that we’re growing here in the UK – that we’re part of this Europe-wide movement, and that we’re drawing power and imagination from it, as well.
Sam: Yeah, and I think transphobia within activist spaces is something that is a big issue in Britain in general and we need to tackle that together – it’s completely connected to all the different struggles as well – so go OOTL!
Paula: Also, here in Germany, my own organization started doing this kind of work and this was nice. You know, that there were other people there taking the lead. It’s very much combined, also, you know, taking women issues and diversity issues together. And when the people come, I mean, the individuals themselves, they come to the meetings that we organize at European or international level, it is so amazing, so touching, you know, to see it. Because people express how home they feel, you know, and how important it is. It is sometimes the first time they really feel home within the movement. I’m extremely thankful that there is place for that, because, I mean, I know how much I suffered and I want to make change, and so if I have the possibility to contribute to that, I want to do what I can.
I think this is a contribution for the whole movement. Because you know, having empowered members will help us to get much further as a movement. Covering many more issues and all of these issues, they belong to this systemic transformation that we urgently need.
Sam: In 2017, La Via Campesina’s seventh International Conference took place in the Basque Country.
Hester: These international conferences are a big deal – they’re where the whole movement agrees on its positions, priorities and strategies for the years to come. And in 2017…
Paula: We managed actually to get one reference to the importance of the inclusion of all genders and all also diversities in the work of La Via Campesina in the final declaration of the conference. And this is extremely important for us, although it is a small mention, this has a huge dimension because this is what gives us the legitimacy and the mandate to further develop this work within the international movement.
Sam: In 2021, ECVC launched a report called “Embracing Rural Diversity: Genders and sexualities in the peasant movement”.
It brings together personal stories from LGBTQIA+ landworkers across Europe. Its aim is to “inspire open dialogue around gender and sexual diversity in rural areas and in the peasant movement… and strengthen the struggle towards inclusive, systemic transformation”.
Paula: And although we have a collection of individual stories, together they build a collective piece which brings this collective dimension and the political importance of this work, no? This work, particularly the work on all these issues of gender inclusion, looking beyond binarities, bringing this topic to the movement, raising awareness, empowering the people within the movement, embracing new faces, embracing new bodies. This is a work that it’s not only for the future, I feel.
This is a work where I also feel myself healing… healing from all the violence that I felt also in my life, and I know that many other bodies are feeling these violences even today. I come from a country where we have the, the highest rates of murders against trans people.
Many, many of them living in rural areas. I left my country – I left my country 20 years ago and I am just starting to understand it now, why I left my country. And it’s also because of this, because there I could not be myself. I could not even, start understanding myself or finding myself, you know?
I think, you know, doing this work is definitely a political work, but what would be political work without subjects behind it, you know? And this is the area of work in my whole political engagement where I feel the deepest that here I also bring my own history, my life history. And where I can contribute really from the deepest of my, my heart. And instead of sucking my energy, this gives me energy, no? So I feel like healing, I feel my heart is warm and it’s amazing to see how much resonance is out there. You know?
But one thing, I think it’s still important. Like, okay, we are having this podcast with me, but I mean, it’s not a one-person work. And if it is only kind of a one person doing that, you don’t get the energy and you don’t get it flowing. I think it’s, it’s important, you know, also to highlight the collective dimension of all this and okay, I am one piece in this chain, you know? Yeah.
You can find the report that Paula talked about by going to the ECVC website – – and searching for “Embracing Rural Diversity”. And we’ll include a link in the shownotes, as well.
What are your reflections?

It was so great to hear from Paula about how much this work brings them joy, and energy – that’s such an important thing that we’re doing, and affirming – energy giving rather than energy draining. Recognising the power in that is really important.

It’s joyful when it’s that kind of thing rather than feeling like you’re defending your space, or trying to make yourself heard, which is the really hard stuff. You need to find ways to resource ourselves better across networks with solidarity, and then the good bits come in.

Sam: And I think what’s important work is like how this work is for recognising and embracing gender and sexual diversity – or whether that’s racial diversity or something – it just becomes central to any organisation or space that talks about human rights or people’s rights or whatever. We need to be affirmative, supporting, empowering spaces for people who might be trans or queer or racial minority.

Hester: Yeah, or like integral to the movement, rather than an after thought – that is growing. And through work that Paula’s been doing, we are creating more of that kind of movement.

Sam: Yeah, I really resonated with what Paula was saying about that work being put on them to do alone, and I think that’s something that often happens to the most marginalised people when talking about their experiences. And I think you said this before Hester; we spend a lot of time justifying our right to exist, or that something we’ve experienced is real, so I think it is really great that now there are more spaces for other queer and LGBT folks to connect within ECVC and La Via Campesina as a whole, and I just hope that there’s less spaces where we feel isolated or alone in our struggles.
Tinisha: Over the last few years and the more I have been learning and educating myself and wanting to get out and connect more with nature. And I guess like landwork also. It has given me the space to heal. It has definitely influenced various areas of my life without realizing, like my mindset being one of them, but also the way that I interact with food and the way that I consume food and how I’m more conscious about seasonal food and how I get access to that. 
Since moving from a rural landscape into a more urban landscape, I’ve been feeling more of a pull towards finding communities and spaces where I can be the observer and also learn from elders around me and community leaders around me as to how to get more into landwork. And it’s a process that I’m trying to take my time with. I really want to learn as much as I can.
And it’s more of a process I’m seeing it as, and it’s also about kind of dismantling my own anxiety around that also.
Nancy: I spent my earliest years in a remote mountain village in Cyprus where subsistence farming was the norm. There were loads of strong women who did all the farm work as well as the domestic chores and the men either worked abroad or sat in cafes playing backgammon.
It would never have worked for me to, to grow up there as a gay woman. And I was really fortunate to move to a UK city where I could discover what being gay meant for me in a really supportive community of other queer folk, but slowly over the years, my need to be rooted in the land and directly connected to the food sustaining me, began to resurface and what I began to do was search to find a way to combine both of these elements of my identity.
Dani: So my mom is Swiss and she grew up on a farm and I grew up going to this farm a lot, but it’s like in a really small area in Switzerland – quite racist. And it was kind of like a narrative in my family that we were like the outsiders, like we don’t want to get our hands dirty or like, if we went swimming in the lakes, can you swim? Because you know, you’re not Swiss and stuff like that. So it’s always been something that’s part of me but I kind of felt like it was a place that I didn’t belong. And then I tried to find like connections to it through going to permaculture workways, where everyone’s white, or these kinds of things. And I’ve always just seen it as somewhere that like, maybe isn’t so accessible to me, or like not where I belong.
And then I found LION and that is the moment that I realized, oh my God, they are like non white people growing. I felt like it was too good to be true. Cause I just thought that wasn’t an accessible space. I thought that wasn’t a space that existed ‘cause I just hadn’t seen it before.
Hester: Professor Corinne Fowler is a research expert at the University of Leicester, and she’s also the Director of a project called Colonial Countryside: National Trust Houses Reinterpreted.
Sam: In LION, we look at the connections between colonialism, racism, and land justice in Britain.Corinne and I spoke together at the Oxford Real Farming Conference 2022 and afterwards, we came together to talk about how the agroecological food growing movement needs to reckon with the history of colonialism and land ownership in order to become a really just movement
So many people live in cities or in urban environments, and there’s such a minority of rural working classes now. And throughout the 20th century it’s decreased and decreased and more and more people are seeking work or livelihoods in cities because there’s less available in the countryside. And I think that’s part of that dispossession as well. And part of how the countryside is being changed through like the fact that a lot of people who made money through colonialism were able to buy up land to create their great estates or to just increase how much land that they owned. And so the countryside becomes this place of exclusion and exclusivity.
And there ends up being like a culture that is connected to it that is very much rooted in these middle-class, polite culture or whatever, which is dictating who is deserving to be in these spaces. And then through conservation, which is deeply connected to colonialism as well, is this idea of protecting nature from people, that there’s these working class people, these people of color, these urban people cannot be trusted to be in nature because they’re just going to damage it.
And I think this is part of the legacy of colonialism, of the enclosures, of displacement of people from the countryside, but also this forgetting of this history, is that there’s also this loss of connection to the land. And there’s a loss of understanding of what nature in Britain looked like and was, and our relationship to it.
And I think that’s what’s quite sad. And I think people are trying to reconnect, especially over the past couple of years under the pandemic, I definitely feel like people are finding this love for being outside and questioning, why is it that I am not able to access so much for these spaces? And I think that’s one element that I think about is how that spiritual connection has been taken away and how it becomes very difficult to build a life in rural spaces because of how they’re shaped around tourism or, you know, a lot of farming is really large scale and it’s quite difficult to earn enough of a living on even small farms. These are things that I hope change as well.
Corinne: Yeah, I’d only add to that there is a lot of interesting work done in the field of hate studies and rural racism in particular as a phenomenon, which is demonstrably present in different ways, in different places, at different times, and to different degrees of severity as well, from name-calling to staring, to making people feel uncomfortable, to attacking an Indian takeaway in a little village or excluding people from areas’ rural programs, on the grounds that they’re not a good fit, these sorts of behaviors, which are a problem, but which are also rooted in an idea about who more naturally supposedly belongs to rural places – i.e. white people – and a forgetfulness, to Black working presences, historically, as servants, as kidnapped people, as children, African children, working in big country houses, as people who’ve been alluded to in books like “Black Tudors” by Miranda Kaufmann. And this idea that, you know, the histories of working people in Britain are exclusively white is also not very helpful. When you look at the historical record, it’s much more complicated than that. Especially during the colonial period.
I do mention in my book, “Green Unpleasant Land”, that there are a lot of stories about farmers and rural racism too. Without kind of wanting to drag us back to the more negative, but there’s a farmer in Leicestershire who had the police called out on him multiple times for picking his own sweetcorn from his own fields that he was renting. And Benjamin Zephaniah also talks about how he went for a country run and it launched a helicopter and a couple of police cars trying to investigate, you know, a Black man running through the fields, you know? Oh my God. So we have got a long way to go for sure. But it’s obvious that the structural inequalities, which racism is part of and incorporated into, you need to understand the connections between class and race, and not talk about the working class as if the working class is white and then people of color are something else.
In fact, COVID has been quite useful for understanding how our society is structured, who is doing which kinds of jobs and what kinds of risks that’s associated with and how much more work is needed to be done. We have an opportunity here to become more conscious and aware of what’s going on and to think about what can be done to support everybody’s wellbeing in being able to access rural spaces.
Sam: And I think connected to that is that this need to change how people imagine the countryside, like there’s this stagnancy, which is deeply connected to it. And it’s because people see it as this escape from how quickly intense change happens within urban spaces. But as I see it, I think I was talking to some friends and they were saying that the countryside is really just a continuation of the city. It’s never been isolated from the city. There’s so many things that these changes affect and throughout history, as you were saying, like the countryside has never been like this purely white, monocultural or homogenous space. There’s so much differences depending on the region, but also that it’s never been completely isolated from British history.
And why should it be now? How can it become like full of vitality? You know, the trajectory for a lot of rural spaces now is that they are a holiday, escapist fantasies for people who can afford to be there. And those who can’t face a lot of exclusion and hostility, and it could be so much more, it could be so much more interesting and it could be this dynamic place where people could actually live and build communities, instead of being increasingly isolated and alienated.
Hester: So what would it look like for the agroecological or the regenerative farming movement to reckon with the histories that Sam and Corinne have been talking about? How can people who are part of those movements – whether that’s as land holders or landworkers – how can we grapple with these histories and move forward?
Sam: You have to learn about the history, but also recognize that, you know, you could be perpetuating some of this by not speaking up, by not catching yourself, by not like actively trying to change the way that your community, your spaces interact with people of color, but also these knowledges. And I think there’s such a responsibility for farm workers within the agroecological, good food, good farming movement to not just see this as like, okay I grow organic and I don’t really care about all these other like social justice things, because they’re not that important.
It’s like, what are you looking towards? Just like a green, capitalist movement that doesn’t really change anything? Do you just want everyone to buy organic food and then that’s not realistic because of the way that the organic food market is shaped here. It is incredibly classed. It’s incredibly inaccessible and it is totally tied up with privilege and also with an extractive industry. And it’s like, okay, how do we actually grow food that people want, how do we engage people who are working class, who are people of color, who are otherwise marginalized from accessing these products? And I think that really takes recognizing, what type of change do you want, you know? And how is this something that can actually be sustainable?
How can people afford to live by working in these fields? And at the moment, people are really earning very little and there’s such little protections for farm workers with bosses or abusive landowners or whatever, and that’s why it’s important to have unions set up. That’s why it’s important to have power and privilege training and learnings, and why it’s important to really reckon with the histories of how this land has come to be what it is, I think.
Recently I went camping in Sussex in the countryside, and because it’s been the jubilee year, it’s really surprising how many Union Jacks you encounter, and even this idea of the British countryside – it was very picturesque, but then at the same time, I think I’m very lucky to have the confidence and the strong belief that I deserve to be in this space that I think if I didn’t have that I would have found it quite hostile being in the countryside. So I see how I have that privilege now to be like: we can transform the British countryside. But if there’s still this attachment to a romantic vision of Colonial Britain to the people who are actually there, it feels like you encounter quite a fight to get there. This is why I think it’s important to value city and urban spaces as well, because if you have trauma associated with this type of hostility that is very rural British, then living in that space will always be an uphill battle; you have to be really committed to it. I think it’s also okay to commit to urban spaces.

Hester: It’s quite interesting chatting about the jubilee, because I really noticed there was so much activity going on around that weekend, and there was so much celebration, and communities organising, and street parties… really cool events, if it wasn’t just only in this celebration of Queen and country that we’re able to do those things. Hearing Corinne talking a lot about our collective disposition of the countryside and really what everyone is searching for is vibrancy, resilience in these communities. There’s a defence of the countryside, of this homogenous and unchanging rural landscape, and actually we’re never going to get that vibrancy and resilience without allowing a space for diversity and change and sustainable livelihoods and I don’t know – there are so many barriers to that.

Something about the jubilee, and the way that people get together in celebration could be so amazing. It can happen, but it takes something like that to make it happen, and it’s a really exclusive space. 

Sam: Totally, and at a time right now, where people have to deal with financial difficulties, to see how much money the government has put into supporting people have jubilee celebrations – it’s like, oh imagine if they let us do that to have street parties and spaces where you can come together and have fun with your neighbours. 
Hester: That stuff’s great in theory. 
Sam: Pro-street parties, against monarchic propaganda. 
Srikanth: The othering effect is not necessarily an explicit threat. It’s not that it’s explicitly unsafe – although it might be – for a person of colour to be there in a kind of predominantly white, rural space. But there’s something implicit, there’s something in the nature of that relationship that is there that may not be mine, that may be there from previous generations that says “this relationship has an edge to it”. And that is enough for our nervous systems to be activated – which means that quite literally we can’t relax. And if we want to enjoy these places, relaxation is part of it. So acknowledging that helps, acknowledging “OK, nothing’s gonna happen here. This is the relationship; it’s not that” is like a prerequisite for being able to relax. On both sides, on both sides. It’s for everybody. So acknowledging the trouble, or the bravery that it takes to do that, is really important.
Philomena: How people feel in a landscape – I think that’s really important, because landscapes communicate symbolically, or in the imagination, particular joys but also fears. You know, and I think the issue of being conspicuous can be quite an issue for people.
Nancy: I’ve never actually had a problem with this when I’m alone with nature. It’s really more about rural people and their prejudices, which make it hard because even if people aren’t overtly hostile, I still find myself feeling out of place and uncomfortable or… yeah, just uncomfortable, I’d say within an overwhelmingly traditional and straight environment. It wasn’t until I discovered intentional communities and found a rural farming one that I really found my feet and felt that I could express myself, my gay identity on the land. I think that’s because this community particularly recognizes that, that you can only get the best out of everyone when they’re truly able to be themselves.
I think that also can take a lot of courage and honesty sometimes, but if it’s met with benevolence, and kindness, then everyone, as I say, can flourish and it really works where I live now.
Dav: I mean, I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t regularly get out. I have a small paved back garden, but I’ve made it into an oasis. You know, it’s filled with pots. At the minute tulips are coming up in like every possible surface and it’s exhilarating. I love it. And last summer it was a jungle. You had to maneuver yourself around tons of plants. There were flowers and it was just so green and it was wonderful. And similarly, my allotment is just giving me so much pleasure and I really, really want more people to have that. And I know plenty of people are seeking it, but being on the allotment in particular, getting down there, getting my hands into the soil. Oh, my gosh. It’s hard to really describe, but that feeling. Like you can feel the Earth’s energy kind of coming up into your fingers and, oh my gosh, it’s just such a wonderful thing. It’s such a magical thing. And I think the more people who can experience that, the better.
The Cultivating Justice podcast series is made by Hester Russell, Abby Rose, Dora Taylor, Katie Revell, Nadia Mehdi and me, Sam Siva. This episode featured conversations with Paula Gioia and Corinne Fowler.
Reflections from Sasha aka MindYourOwnPlants, Dani Foster, Dav Singh, Tinisha Williams, Nancy Winfield, Srikanth, Narayanan and Philomena de Lima.
And music by Jas Butt – a.k.a. Guest and Hari Byles – as well as Bianca Wilson, a.k.a. Island Girl. Our series music is by Taha Hassan. Thank you to our funders, Farming the Future and the Roddick Foundation. And a big thank you to everyone who’s contributed in any way!
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