Cultivating Justice: Episode 6

Cultivating Justice: Episode 6 150 150 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.

In the final episode of this series, our producer, Katie Revell, hosts alongside LION’s Sam Siva and OOTL’s Hester Russell, who add their reflections to the pieces throughout the episode. First, psychotherapist and grower Srikanth Narayanan shares their thoughts about the fluid ways in which we can see our relationship with land, other living creatures, plants and the natural environment. They discuss how to reconnect with the natural world as something that is not outside of us, and how trauma can be addressed and healed through our relationships to land.

Next, Farmerama’s Dora Taylor and Abby Rose talk about a dissertation that Dora wrote about Black farmers in the UK. The dissertation explores the relationships between the cultural practices of Black farmers and the mainstream agroecological movement. Abby and Dora unpick themes of racial identity, the use of language around agroecological methods, and the importance of centering joy.

Towards the end of the episode, we hear from our chorus of voices, who reflect on home, belonging and rurality. And finally, Sam Siva shares an emotive visioning piece, inviting us to imagine the world that we are working towards, one that centres queer, anti-racist and reparative frameworks, challenges systems of oppression, and fundamentally changes the structural experiences of marginalised groups.

We also hear a re-worked traditional folk song, and a performance piece by artist Sin Wai Kin.

The first two zines from the Cultivating Justice project, ‘TransPlants’ and ‘Gourds, Banjos and Calalloo’, are available to order now here, on LION’s website.

The Cultivating Justice podcast series is made by Abby Rose, Dora Taylor, Katie Revell, Nadia Mehdi, Sam Siva, and Hester Russell. This episode featured contributions from Srikanth Narayanan, Dora Taylor and Sam Siva; reflections from Philomena de Lima, Maymana Arefin, Sasha, a.k.a. MindYourOwnPlants, Dani Foster, Tinisha Williams, Anna Barrett, and Nancy Winfield; music by Eggclab 7 and Bianca Wilson, a.k.a. Island Girl; along with performance art by Sin Wai Kin.

Our series music is by Taha Hassan, and our artwork is by @Blkmoodyboi.

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

Visit to find out more.

Full episode transcript:

Sin Wai Kin: She had a dream once where she realized that her experience and her consciousness and her desire was just the sum total of all of her cells and bacteria, her organs and parts, all held together in her skin, ornamented with painted nails and long and brushed hair. And sometimes salted with beads of sweat and mucosal trickles, inlaid with eyes that were often looked into or away from. All of these parts were willing themselves into a whole, working together just to stay alive. And within that, necessitating the illusion of her.
Cultivating Justice: episode 6
Sam: Before we get into the episode, a heads-up that it includes discussion of trauma, racism and colonialism. Please take care as you listen.

Welcome to Cultivating Justice!

Hester: I’m Hester Russell. I’m a grower, and an organiser for Out on the Land.

Sam: I’m Sam Siva, I’m a grower, writer and organiser with Land in Our Names. 
Katie: And I’m Katie Revell, I’m part of the Farmerama team, and I produced this series, so I’ve been helping to pull everything together..
Hester: The clip we just heard is taken from a performance by artist Sin Wai Kin. It mixes their sounds and poetry with music from the Butterfly Lovers violin concerto, and recordings from oceans and compost piles…
Sam: In this episode, we’ll hear from an ecotherapist about healing the trauma of being separated from the land…
Hester: We’ll learn about the surprising findings of a study into the experiences of Black farmers…
Katie: And Sam, you’re going to close the series with your vision of what the land and food justice movement could look like if it centred queer frameworks, anti-racism and reparations.
Srikanth Narayanan is a Glasgow-based psychotherapist. The interview we’re about to hear was actually recorded by Col Gordon for Farmerama’s Landed series which explored colonial legacy, land reform, reparations, food justice, traditional Gaelic land relations… and lots and lots of other things as well.  That interview covered a lot of ground, and it really stuck with me. As is often the case, a lot of it didn’t make it to the final series, so I’m really glad that we can share some more of it here. The bit we’re about to hear I think really chimes with a lot of the themes of the Cultivating Justice project. Thank you to Srikanth, and to Col, for letting us include it here.
So as I said, Srikanth is a psychotherapist…
Srikanth: … One of my particular interests is ecopsychology. That’s really about all the relationships that we have as an ecosystem: relationships between humans and relationships between humans and the other-than-human, which includes the land in general.
And another part of the work that I do is that I’m a grower, I guess an aspiring farmer. And I’m seeking my own relationship with the land and with food in a way that maybe brings all of these interests together. I guess one of the questions that I have is like, is there a psychology of our relationships to the land and to plants and to forests and to the ocean? Where did those relationships come from? Are there any other ways that this relationship could be?
It’s almost like coming from the other direction when we really experience a connection with the land. We can experience it in a way where we know that although it’s different from us, there really is that kind of bond there. That in some ways nature is not something that’s outside of us. And I guess that many of us who work on the land have experienced that at some points. It’s also something that’s really easy to slip away from. It’s not the common currency of our culture in the west. It’s not the way that the sorts of systems that coordinate and control our lives – economic systems – work. So there’s a kind of mismatch there, and there’s a kind of questioning that you can get into about where did that separation, that mismatch come from? How far back does it go? And part of it is that people have been, across the world, but especially in places that were colonized, they’ve been removed from their land, or their land has been occupied.
That individuals have also been moved from the land because of perhaps economic forces. And also when did we start looking at the land as something that is just there for us to take from? That’s a question that maybe the answers really go back to when we started needing agriculture, we needed to organize ways to have the land provide for us. And so if we really want to answer those questions or redefine our relationships, we need to find those places in ourselves where those wounds still exist. The pain of losing that connection. And I guess that’s part of the work that I’m interested in is: where are the places in ourselves where we hide from that wound, where we can’t acknowledge that? Because we need that back if we’re to reconnect.
The most straightforward way of talking about it is, is about trauma. That there’s a traumatic loss that’s taken place. That there was a connection there that isn’t there anymore. So a lot of the process is about working with trauma. It’s about finding those places in ourselves that we’ve alienated, which we’ve kind of decided – maybe because of forces outside of us – are other or need to be controlled or need to be shackled in some way or productive, and kind of giving them back some agency, taking the chains off. And that often releases a lot of pain.
Looking at it through the lens of trauma is quite useful because it’s quite a well-recognized thing now that trauma can be passed down from generation to generation, that those wounds that we have are not just our own. And we may be holding things that have been there for generations. So we’re not just healing them for ourselves. We’re healing them because something is calling us from potentially many generations ago. And that’s part of the way that we’ve lost touch with these things is because in the west, certainly, there’s been a real focus on individual pursuit, individual psychology. You do your work, become a better person and then life is fine. And when we look more collectively, actually we see that we’re all holding things for each other and for generations that have preceded us. So I guess the responsibility there is to like, well, if we start to look at those things and work with those things, then we don’t need to pass them on as wounds. These are things that call us and it’s up to us to answer the call. Many, many of us know that it’s there, but it’s easy to ignore it and just get on with the lives that have been laid out for us.
I guess when we’re talking about how we might have colonized peoples and lands, we’re talking about the way that the powerful have come to dominate the less powerful. And in some ways this is something all of us as humans in relationship to the land and to the other-than-human have to wrestle with, which is: how are we coming to dominate those other things with which we’re working or being alongside or living with, because that’s a very particular kind of relationship: the relationship that I need to control you…
I need you to produce for me. I need you to appear when I say you need to appear and go away when I say you need to go away. It’s a very particular kind of relationship which nowadays we’re really, really questioning when it comes to human relationships, but maybe less so when it comes to relationships with the land. One of the things that I’m really interested in is how can we question that kind of need to control, that kind of need to impose our power on the land, on the other-than-human – which is not to say that we stop needing things or receiving from the land. It’s just to say that we do so in a relationship that is more mutual, maybe more respectful, that respects the processes that are going on that are not ours.
Srikanth: Part of that loss of that kind of relationship of mutuality, a reciprocal relationship is guilt about the need to control – guilt about the ways in which we might need to exploit the other, which needs to be processed. And these are huge things. They’re in the colonizer, in the person who’s doing the controlling, and we can go through life very practically and not really question them, partly because that is supported by the culture that we’re in, predominantly. So it takes a really big step to kind of stop and kind of go, oh no, but actually there’s a part of me that feels this guilt. There’s a part of me that feels that pain and that doesn’t want to have that relationship. That can be quite subtle work and it can be quite painful work and it requires some grieving of what was lost, but that’s part of a healing process. Just by acknowledging those parts of ourselves, we start to see the pain and let it breathe. And let it be there, and that’s the way we find our way back. 
There’s nothing wrong with intellectualizing it, in fact, that can be a really great way in. So the intellectual debate about decolonization, domestication, undomestication, finding connection, is valuable, but it’s not where the experience lies. The experience and the trauma and the wounds are in our bodies, in our souls. And if we really want that connection, we have to engage with it in the ways that our bodies engage with it. It’s looking at ourselves as nature, as living organisms. As creatures with a, with a soul. And part of the way we might start to do that is through our bodies, through how we relate physically to the land.
So for me, some of those things in more practical terms are about movement, are about, about sound, are about dance, about ritual, about ceremony. Those things are really important when we’re trying to engage ourselves more deeply in, in a relationship. They speak to us at a level, which the words and the ideas maybe can’t get at.
Sam: What are your takeaways from Srikanth’s piece?
Katie: One thing I find really interesting is the role that land plays in shaping our understanding of reality, shaping the way that we actually see the world. And the fact that it can actually really restrict that understanding. One of the reasons language matters is that if we are able to find new ways, or maybe rediscover old ways of talking about the other than human or the more than human world, and getting away from terms that are common at the moment – like nature, or the environment, you know maybe that can help us get away from this false dichotomy that Srikanth is talking about between humans and the rest of the world. It takes a conscious effort because we’re so habituated to these ways of talking, and therefore these ways of thinking. That do entrench that divide, even if in our hearts we understand that there is no divide, the language that we have to hand forces us to perpetuate that divide.  

Hester: Yeah I would totally agree with that, and I think that this language of human exceptionalism and separation from the ecosystem that we work and exploit, has been the vehicle for a lot of the violence that we perpetrated on the planet, and on living things, and on each other. And I think, like you say, it’s a conscious effort to reconfigure that language. And I think that’s a really important part of knitting ourselves back into the natural world. It can feel quite weird to adopt these new, I want to say made up terms but obviously all language is made up. But when you’re trying to sort of import an engineered concept, I think it can feel quite inauthentic but I think you just have to sort of push through that moment, because that is a real way that we can reimagine.

Another thing for me that Srikanth touches on at the end is not intellectualising in the sort of embodiment of this feeling, and being embodied on the land, and that really resonated with me. I thought quite a lot about how important ritual is, and how impoverished I feel in terms of ritual. And I think particularly in white British culture, we don’t have much ritual. And we’ve come away from it, and sometimes there’s a bit of discomfort or embarrassment in trying to recreate that. Which I’ve definitely felt. But I feel like it’s really important to me to try and have an authentic voice in ritual and celebration and reconnecting in that embodied and collective way.

Katie: I definitely haven’t found a route through that for myself, and I absolutely get that kind of squeamishness. Trying to participate in ritual, or in ceremony, without feeling like it has to be cloaked in irony, or self consciousness, or sarcasm, is a real challenge. But I feel like it’s really important.

Hester: Yeah and those are sort of deflection mechanisms aren’t they. Yeah and I think that feeling that it’s going to be appropriative, or extractive from other cultures is a product of us not dealing with out colonial history and our ongoing profiting.

Sam: Totally, and also there is a culture within like hippy, and within the kind of counter-cultural movement in the 60s and 70s, where it was literally appropriation. And that’s still very present here, but I think there are ways to have ritual and like, so much of what Srikanth is talking about is how connecting to the land, and just being within that relationship with the land is actually – this is something that belongs to everyone. It’s not bound by a specific culture or whatever, this is something that through industrialisation and colonialism, and being I guess for British folks as well or I guess Northern European people in the recent history, being beneficiaries or complicit in colonialism, how that further separates you from each other and from the land. Yeah I think actually having a relationship with the land is a way of healing that, and creating new ways of communing and building communities and so on. 
Cultivating Justice
Hester: The song you’re about to hear is called The Lark in the Morning, by Eggclab 7. Its a reworking of a trad folk tune and the lyrics were inspired by the focus on women’s liberation in the kurdish freedom movement, although the lyrics come across as quite black and white in its gender division but the broad aim was to remember patriarchy as a system rather than a gender. You can find it on the LWA stand up now album.
Sam: Now we’re going to listen to a chat with executive producer Abby and Dora. Dora did some research into the experience of black farmers and what she found challenged her assumptions about why and how Black people farm. 
Dora: The title is “Race, Exclusion and Enterprise: exploring the place of Black farmers in the UK’s alternative farming movement”. I was studying a MA in Food Anthropology, and I’d been becoming really interested in the kind of alternative food and farming movement as an answer to climate change. And then kind of outside of my studies, I’d also been engaging more with my Black community and kind of learning more about anti-racism and getting more into activism. And I kind of began to realize that those two things were linked. So I decided to talk to some Black farmers and growers, to kind of see whether those anti-racist narratives were kind of coming into their growing.
Abby: If you’d like to share some of your key findings from those explorations, that’d be great.
Dora: When I set out on the dissertation, like I had to have a kind of research question that I was attempting to answer. And my question was how are Black, British farmers and growers linking anti-racism with their farming practices? And I was working with farmers and growers who are growing in non-intensive ways, so whatever you want to call that, but broadly agro-ecological methods. And because of the kind of literature that I’d been reading, which that isn’t that much of, but what is there and the kind of, spokespeople within this space. I was expecting all of these growers to have a very clear rhetorical link between “we grow in this non extractive, regenerative way, because it reflects broader arguments around decolonization, around anti-racism, around land justice”. And actually when I spoke to people, although that was definitely there, it was never their primary motivation.
And instead that link was very much implicit. When I asked whether that link was there, a lot of the growers were almost kind of confused that I was asking it – it was self-evident to them that of course it is – that’s what we do. And I think with that, there was also this reluctance to use the language, I guess, of the regenerative farming movement. I asked people growing in an organic or an agro-ecological way their reasons behind it, and a lot of growers were very wary of using those terms. One woman said to me, organic just means it’s from the Earth. Sustainable just means we’re able to live off it. The language to them seemed quite unnecessary, I suppose. And I think what that really came down to is that the way that they are growing is something which has a very strong, like cultural link.
A lot of people had learnt to grow food from their parents or grandparents as children on allotments. And it was just the way things are done. Which contrasts quite strongly to this other, I would say more mainstream narrative about regenerative farming, being a kind of answer to climate change, a response to industrial farming. Whereas for the growers I was talking to, there was this continuity of, this is how you farm. There isn’t another way and there’s not really, I guess, much to be gained from framing it as this kind of new response.
Abby: When I read it, I really got that. There was just a sort of knowing that was so integral, so ingrained that it was almost laughable. These needs, other people had to kind of, define and make it into something new.
Dora: Definitely. There was a kind of bemusement a lot of the time. One of the most memorable days I had when I was spending time with some Black growers was one of the growers is trying to explain how to build some sort of bed.
And she was like, let’s just go and do it because it’s easier. And so we did it, we all understood. And then at the end of the session, she got up this video and she said, oh, I was teaching some children how to do this bed yesterday. And I had to show them this video and it was this like narrated video with like this man with a very strong American accent. And she was laughing at it ‘cause she was like, I never even knew this had a name, but apparently it does. This man has made a video to teach us how to do it, but this is how I’ve always done it. This is how my parents did it.
And I think that was one of the very, one of many very uplifting and kind of powerful feelings that I felt throughout my research was actually that these growers, they don’t feel as if they’re missing out on something. They kind of feel like everyone else is missing out. Like we know this and everyone else is kind of catching up. Yes, we might be marginalized in structural ways, but actually within the community, we’re doing it. We don’t really need this external validation, necessarily.
Dora: Although obviously people want material access to things. You know, people need to be able to live, there wasn’t any need to kind of be included beyond the kind of practical material way.
Abby: So interesting. And once you say it, it makes a lot of sense, totally get it. But it’s certainly not how it’s portrayed generally. I would say from the, the predominantly white, UK based alternative farming movement as you called it.
Dora: Yeah. I think there is an understanding, an acknowledgement of indigenous traditional farming methods, within the wider alternative farming movement, I think that’s growing, but it’s still kind of an afterthought. And also I think what’s really missing from that narrative is not, these practices are used by indigenous people elsewhere. It’s like people living and growing in the UK have been using these practices and it’s a really important way in which migrants from the African diaspora have continued cultural traditions and continued to build community in the UK is through growing practices. When Black farmers and growers do have the platform within the space and are kind of speaking and sharing their experiences. It’s still framed as “these people are super marginalized and we need to sort of do more for them” – which in some ways is true, but in other ways, that community have everything they need. It’s more about recognition. And I think that there’s not the really active desire to actually ask Black people who are growing for their advice and wisdom. And I think that that’s a massive oversight, really, because there’s so much inherent knowledge and wisdom within those communities. And it’s kind of being replicated elsewhere without the acknowledgement that it’s already happening.
Abby: Totally. Was there anything – other than what we just spoke about – that particularly surprised you, positive or negative?
Dora: Apart from the reluctance to use the kind of language around agroecology, there was also a reluctance to identify in racialized terms at all. I think there’s an exceptionalist framing of Black people being farmers. When I was telling people about my research topic, every person that I spoke to, who wasn’t Black, was shocked that there was even one singular Black farmer. People were like, where are they? And for that reason, I can really understand why, as a Black grower, you would be infuriated by constantly having to refer to the fact that you’re Black. Because that’s not the point. The point is you’re a grower. And I think many people found that whenever they were speaking to slightly external people, that I was, you know, an academic, the whole conversation would be about race and it wouldn’t get beyond that. It wouldn’t actually get to the knowledge, it would just be about: what are your experiences of marginalization? How have you been oppressed? How difficult is it for you to exist in this space? And understandably, that’s really frustrating and a very narrow way to be perceived.
So I was surprised at first that, they didn’t really want to talk about race, but actually as I spoke to the more it became clear the reasons for that. It’s kind of an assertion of like: I am a farmer, I am a grower. It doesn’t matter that I’m not a white person. Yeah.
Abby: For me that was a really exciting part of what you were communicating or finding in the dissertation was this kind of occupation of the space, by Black farmers, but it was like a jubilant knowing kind of ownership of what they’re doing, that’s like way beyond anything that anyone could confine them to. It just felt like it was an expression of being. And that this idea that race was the only framing that we could give these people was very, restrictive and, like the radical act for them was to just bat that off and be like, don’t reduce me to something that you’re trying to frame me in.
Dora: There’s such a focus on joy as well and celebration, and I think that that’s also really important for communities that have almost had this expectation of suffering kind of put onto them, like people expect that they’re gonna have all these really troubling stories of marginalization to tell them, and sure, those stories do exist. But the focus when I was speaking to people was the joy and the connection and the community and the love. And, like you say, this occupation of the space with no need to excuse themselves or explain why they were there.
Katie: What do you think about what Dora was saying, and what she found?

Sam: I think it’s really interesting to see how she was drawn to this side of things, like farming, as well as racial justice and how in her research wanting to tie them together. But then for the participants to not have the same route into food growing, and especially regarding their racial identity. You know, obviously with LION, we are a political collective and using Black and people of colour as like a label of solidarity to highlight the ways in which systemic racism has a role within agroecological farming as well as land ownership, and so on. So for me it’s always really interesting to see and hear from folks where that’s not an essential part of it, and I think it’s very different when you’re an activist doing organising, or if it’s a clearly political space, as opposed to someone who has a hobby. And the fact that people cannot believe that there are other black growers even though there’s so many people who are growing who are not white, who are farmers across the world. Yeah I think it’s really great to see how different people also see these labels of organic, or permaculture, or sustainable as like just these modern terms for ways of farming, and ways of working with the land that are older than these labels in a way. Yeah.

Hester: I don’t know why the norm should be seen more broadly as intensive agriculture when we’ve been farming in these other ways for so long, across the world.

Sam: And it’s totally tied with colonialism and capitalism. You can’t separate the two, like within a lot of the colonies, intensive farming was a way of making as much money as possible, by having the highest yields and harvests and so on. And that was only made possible through like a subjugated labour force, whether they were enslaved or indentured workers. Or even with the enclosures in Britain. You know – you take up more and more land so that you can have livestock farming, rather than having a diverse farming practice. I see the connection is this long line of this one particular way of growing food, that you use scientific resources in order to maintain or support. It benefits people who own a lot of land, it benefits the wealthiest, as opposed to the person trying to like feed themselves and their family. This is why we can’t separate the countryside from the urban spaces, because through displacing people, you create this landless, waged labour force. So I’ve just gotta stop ranting about capitalism – but like it’s like inextricable if we’re talking about methods of farming, and like why it came about.

Hester: Yeah, never stop ranting! 
Tinisha: I used to live out towards more of a rural, kind of countryside area. And at first being in those spaces made me feel really uncomfortable. And I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was for a while. I remember kind of walking around those spaces and feeling like a bit of, a bit of an intruder, to be honest.
And as though I, as a person of color didn’t necessarily belong in those spaces because the majority of the people around that area, and also that had a monopolies those areas, they were white. And to come into that space from being in an urban space where a lot of the people around me looked like me and spoke like me to then walk among these fields and feel like, oh this doesn’t feel like – I associate farming with whiteness. It has taken quite a long time to deconstruct that and to understand that I have just as much claim and agency in these green spaces as anyone else.
Philomena: To some extent, to feel at home here is to have a strong sort of social network – to have people around you that support you, that affirm who you are, and not always question you… and where you can see some of yourself reflected around you. You know, where you can see an affirmation of who you are, you know, where you feel your skills are valued or you know, that you’re not constantly put into a box as being different, I suppose. And that you don’t have to prove yourself all the time… I always felt that as somebody who was seen as different and not necessarily “from here”, I always had to authenticate that I actually knew about rural… I almost had to say “Well, you know, I have lived on a croft, we have established a business, I’ve lived in rural areas all my life…” I had to justify myself. So it’s to develop a sort of context where people don’t constantly have to think of themselves as the other.
Maymana: People of colour, and Black people more generally, we’ve never really felt welcomed in kind of “rural”, quote unquote, sort of wild spaces. I’m speaking about it specifically around the UK, but I know that this is obviously true in the US and lots of other parts of the world as well, where people in the global majority aren’t usually recognised as belonging, they’re not recognised as being faces that you would expect to see in green areas. I like to use words just like “green spaces” ‘cause it just feels a little bit less loaded than things like “rural” or “wild” or any of these words that also I think probably have some kind of colonial history, and just are very human-centric, I guess.
Sasha: We get to look at history. We get to look at the botanists who did have the access to be able to study and explore these fields. And again, they failed to look like us, and sometimes that’s down to structures that award privileges to certain communities, but yeah, it’s, it’s sad that botany and horticulture and just plants and non-human beings, just connecting with anything is seen as something that should be commodified, made inaccessible. They just keep it white-dominated. That’s the truth. It’s awfully Anglo. That may be a little politically incorrect, but I think it’s not to be rude or to demean anybody’s experience, but we all look around and I even have friends within the white community that can honestly open up and say, this space is not inclusive. This space tokenizes a lot of individuals. When it does award opportunities, it would much rather caricature our experiences than actually allow us the room to grow and explore.
Dani: For me and my life now, living in Edinburgh, there’s really like, such a lack of like, I haven’t found a community in Edinburgh of growers or like people interested in – specifically talking about food growing or just like any kind of growing – that isn’t majority white middle-class. So that is just what it is there. And, I live with a lot of people and I’m around a lot of people who are super into foraging and like tapping into traditional ways of growing and like connecting with nature. And I feel like quite separate from that. Cause I just feel like, yeah, I just feel like it’s a very white space and I think it’s great that there is a space of people doing that, but I have a bit of a block with it.
I always think like that’s something that I’m so interested in. Like why am I not doing it? And I realized, cause it’s totally about the community for me. And I think it’s just, I don’t feel like it’s a space that I am part of or like that is accessible to me. Or not even that – it’s like, I would enjoy it a lot more if it was people that were like me, you know, or that people that I could relate with. And so I guess I would hope to find a way to be a part of something like that, so that I could learn more about growing and I could just be more active, like implement it more into my life. Yeah. So I hope I can find that.
Sam: Yeah, you will.
Dani: Yeah, I will. Yeah.
Tinisha: I think the more inwards I have been going and reconnecting with myself and my identity as a brown person, a person of color, I have been feeling more and more connected to the land and more and more as though it kind of is a part of my DNA. And my ancestors were from the land. They were brought up on the land. They used the land and I guess like Earth Magic to nourish themselves and heal themselves. And I want to be able to honor that and carry that forward, also.
Hester: The last piece we’re going to hear ia a visioning piece – why did you want to record and share this?
Sam: I think I wanted to record this piece because I want to try and imagine what is this world that we are working towards. I think so often within lefty, activist spaces, we’re always fighting against, reacting against. And it can often seem like the issue is just about representation, especially around identity based politics and so on. And I don’t think it’s just about getting some Black or Asian students at your horticultural college, or having more Black landowners or farmers. Or even having a queer boss, I don’t know, boss bee keeper. You know for me it’s like how does this change, how can getting more queer folks and more women and people of colour onto the land and into landwork, how can that actually work towards changing the structural experiences of marginalised groups like these. And how can it be also tied with climate justice, and land justice, and challenging the existing systems of oppression that mean that we feel isolated at times, or so separate from the land. I think a big part of this is like just dreaming and imagining together. And we need that – because that’s how we change.

I think we’re in this very difficult time in history where there’s a lot of backlash whenever we talk about rural racism or about queer identities within rural spaces, because there’s this attachment to the rural idyll, which is this myth of an unchanging, timeless or out of time place, which is just filled with like really friendly white people who all know each other and have known each other for generations. And it’s sort of untouched by all of the degradation of urban spaces, whether that is, you know, sex positivity or like sexual diversity or, you know, racism and anti racist movements and migration and different cultures, intermixing, and at times maybe even coming into conflict with each other. So there’s like this idea that Black and people of color and queer people are relegated to the cities. In the city, you can be around all of this really exciting diversity, like these places of change, that is so much change constantly, that you’re struggling to keep up. And rural spaces are like this escape, this place where you can go to like restore yourself, to heal, or you go when you can’t handle living in a city anymore. 
I think as a queer person and as a person of color, a Black person, I find it really heartbreaking at times because I can see how living in a city, and in London, it can be so damaging to our health, whether that’s our mental health or our physical health, like, you know, we’re living under an economic system that doesn’t value people’s health and wellbeing. People living in the most deprived areas, and usually urban areas, are more likely to be exposed to higher amounts of air pollution and are less likely to be able to access green spaces and nature spaces and so on. And, you know, it’s just proven that these things are good for your physical health, as well as your mental health. There’s like this wonder, like why do people live here? And like, I think if you’re a queer person or a person of color, you know, you’re seeking community, you’re seeking somewhere that you can feel safe, but also you experience a lot of structural discrimination that means if you aren’t able to assimilate and look, and act and speak a certain way, you have a lot less opportunities available to you.
Being able to like set up communities, you know, being able to live in rural spaces without fearing isolation or discrimination. And it, you know, it’s one thing if like a nuclear family unit goes and moves into this place, or like whether they’re queer or whether they’re Black or Asian or whatever, you’re always going to feel like an outsider and be a lot more exposed. What would it be like if we could just go and live in a small town or a village or set up our own land projects, but also still connect to the communities there, because I think there’s like this desire also from people who live in these areas to not feel like they’re stuck in the past and also to feel like they’re not forgotten, as well. Is there a way that we can create a new way of being in the countryside and being on the land that doesn’t feel like you’re just living like this fantasy, cottage core existence, but actually is so much about creating a new way of being in rural spaces that feels as dynamic and exciting and vital as when you’re in the city?
Then rather than being driven by like the sense of urgency, which I think can happen a lot with activist organizing, I think it’s important for us to actually think about what does it mean to set down roots and also to do it in a way that is forging relationships with the people who have been that before. And I think the other side of it is not to think that a land and food justice movement or climate justice movement has to be based in the countryside either. I think there’s ways that we could transform cities like London into being nourishing places for anyone to live in. The fact is that so many people do grow up here or live here, but then we don’t feel like a sense of ownership or ability to change the spaces we’re in as much as we want to because of how controlled we are in these spaces. How can that connection between the rural and the urban happen in a way that is really transformative? How can we have less cars and more accessible, affordable, public transportation, more green spaces and nature reserves within cities, more agroecological farming and you know, mini-forests in cities, more green zones in between very residential areas, less pollution, more people being able to have beautiful spaces that they can rest and relax and learn about food growing or carpentry or other skills, like within these urban spaces. So it’s not just seeing that you either live in the countryside or you live in a city.
We’ve lost a lot of things. We’ve lost the ability to have cheap or free housing or, you know, like organizing spaces or just like places to rest and ways to rest and access healing therapies and so on. And these are things that are hard to navigate on your own. And that’s why it’s more and more essential that we create the resources and the spaces that we need, whether we are in urban or rural spaces and that they are not this binary, separate thing, they are connected and essential for us to actually create a transformative movement, you know, and if we’re talking about land justice, land justice implicates all the things that you find in urban spaces too, from housing to ideas about use of land. And there’s a lot of different things that land justice can mean also when we’re thinking about cities. 
It’s about trying to tell a new story drawing on what we’ve learned from collective organizing, what we’ve learnt from queer organizing what we’ve learned from anti-racist organizing over the past centuries about, you know, how can we do it in a way that isn’t just propping up the state or heteronormative ways of living and working together. What if we’re not even paying attention to that? We tell our own stories. We share our own narratives. We archive our own organizing in its own ways. Then we just focus on like building really solid foundations and relationships and communities so that we have a really resilient movement.

Katie: Thanks so much for listening to cultivating justice. Cultivating justice isn’t just this podcast series. We’ve also made some zines, and Sam do you want to tell us about those?
Sam: Yeah so as we’ve talked about in different episodes, Marcus published a zine called Gourds, Banjos and Callaloo, which you can read on LION’s website, and you can order a reprint from our store. We’ve also got a zine called Transplants, made up of submissions from lots of different folks looking at queering and decolonising botany. And you can get that zine as well as some merch, like T shirts, vests, caps, patches and so on. All from LION’s website – the link will be in our show notes. 
Anna: A queer vision of land justice means visibility, really. Visibility of queer bodies in the landscape. You know, there’s a lot of queer people who would like to, or do currently do land-based work. Um, but there’s a lot of people, yeah, who feel excluded from that space, rurally, most often, but you know, not entirely. Yeah. So queer vision of land justice is, is simply just that being a non-judgemental safe space for all queers to be in and take up space. I just think everyone should be in inverted commas, I suppose, “allowed”, like everyone’s allowed to be in nature. Nature is for everyone. I’m really talking from quite a privileged position where I can be out at work and get to wear what I want, which is nice. It’s not always been the case. I think I’m really privileged in that way and globally, there’s just really a lot of work to be done, but I just really don’t think that nature should be the place that is just solely thought of as a, you know, white, cis, heteronormative, able-bodied space. I just think it should be there for people who are neurodivergent, people – all the people! Because it’s just really important for me, for my mental health. And I think it really would be for a lot of others.
Nancy: For me, I suppose, it’s about access to the land for everyone, but it’s key that it’s not just about that, it’s also about changing cultures and attitudes which are no longer relevant. It’s about moving away from extractive, short-term and selfish approaches to a more inclusive world where everyone can flourish on the land which is itself respected and valued as the source of all our wellbeing and livelihoods.
Sasha: So I’d just like to close this off by thanking everybody who followed. I hope I was somewhat cohesive. I hope I’ve done some justice in amplifying… something. It’s quite a struggle. But I do think there’s definitely a desire and a need for more representation, and not just tokenistic representation but actual inclusive representation. I know what that looks like, and I think many individuals within this space know what that looks like, and they are facilitating the creation of it, but it takes individuals ensuring that we’re not using these terminologies as a buzzword. It takes people stepping up and having difficult conversations and listening. Like, I’ve told a fraction of my story and I hope that’s given some insight, a vague insight into just a perspective, but I know there’s many other stories out there, and listening is probably the best thing that people could do.
Hester: The Cultivating Justice podcast series is made by Abby Rose, Dora Taylor, Katie Revell, Nadia Mehdi, Sam Siva, and me, Hester Russell.
Katie: This episode featured contributions from Srikanth Narayanan, Dora Taylor and Sam Siva…
Sam: As well as reflections from Philomena de Lima, Maymana Arefin, Sasha, a.k.a. MindYourOwnPlants, Dani Foster, Tinisha Williams, Anna Barrett, and Nancy Winfield