My relationship to farming has always been intertwined with my creative practice. I was introduced to the world of farming and gardening in 2009 when I participated in my second year of a summer dance intensives with Urban Bush Women. Each year UBW uses dance and community engagement practices to investigate a distinct socially relevant theme, and in 2009 the theme was food justice, and the setting was New Orleans. With a summer reading list filled of Michael Pollan, Vandana Shiva, Raj Patel and Barbara Kingsolver, I was invited into a social justice field entirely new to me. After my tour of the New Orleans food system and my cursory examination of American and global food justice, I was inspired to learn more about food and farming in my own community. I came home to Austin to begin volunteering through a workshare program at Green Gate Farms, a small-scale organic farm. Hungry for soily hands and fresh food, I completed a Permaculture Design Course and Citizen Gardener Course in Austin, and was eventually led to Urban Roots, where I would grow and learn and initiate the next bend in the windy road of my life! Urban Roots is an exciting youth development organization that uses food to transform the lives of young people and other members of the Austin community!
My four years with Urban Roots have been instrumental in shaping my artistic practice, my community engagement methodology and my worldview.
When I left Urban Roots to deepen my community dance training and practice, I knew I would not be away from the land for long. After completing a community dance training program, I travelled to Brazil to WWOOF (learn more in my September 2014 blog post) with a small family farm in Bahia. Upon my recent move to the San Francisco, I joined a community garden as a way to familiarize myself with the city and community. Reconnecting with a dear friend who I met in my early days at Urban Roots, I have had the pleasure to work Mary Hillemeier as a marketeer at Blue House Farm! And I am currently collaborating with ABD Productions founder and Artistic Director, Anne Bluethenthal to develop a community garden project in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood.
But I wanted more!
So I applied to the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) in Santa Cruz! This is a historical sustainable ag school that has birthed some incredible food and farm folks, including Max Elliott, co-founder of Urban Roots, my dear Mary Hillemeier, Ryan Casey, Blue House Farm founder, and countless others, in and out of my personal network!
As CASFS, not only will I get to develop valuable skills about working with the land, but I will also deepen my community-building skills! I will work and live alongside 40 other Farm Apprentices for the 6 months of the program.
Many folks have excitedly congratulated me, and then asked… ‘so what does that have to do with your MFA program?’ The answer: Who knows?! Nothing! Everything! Let’s see!
I am excited by relationships, community, wellness, and coming together. And that is all a part of my arts practice, if not the whole of it!
I am working towards establishing an art and farm collective that serves as a space for education, growth, play and the overlap of creativity and food cultivation. My hope is that it would also serve as a communal hub for local residents and visitors to meet, exchange ideas and build connections. My experience of small-scale agriculture is that a community farm offers a meaningful foundation for such relationships to flourish. By providing the platform for people to connect with the earth, connect with their bodies and participate in meaningful work, people will be encouraged to learn about themselves and connect with one another.
So… on April 10, I will finish semester 2 of my MFA program at CIIS. On April 11, I will begin 6 months of farming and communal living at CASFS. And on April 12, I will turn 32! I absolutely cannot imagine a better birthday gift! Happy birthmonth to me!