We Are Each Other’s Harvest: Celebrating African American Farmers, Land, and Legacy is a tribute, an education, a family album and a celebration of Black farmers past, present—and hopefully future.
Author Natalie Baszile’s interest in foods’ origins deepened when she learned that her great-great-grandfather, who was once enslaved, became a successful farmer after emancipation. The older generations of her family, she realized, “cherished their connection to the soil and understood the value in owning and taking care of land.”
Curiosity fully piqued, Baszile left her job at her father’s business to write her much-lauded novel, Queen Sugar, about a Black woman in Los Angeles who inherits her father’s Louisiana sugar cane farm. But before Baszile could do justice to the fictional farming family she was creating, she had much to learn. Her years of research into Black farming history and its tools, techniques and culture culminated in the 2014 publication of her novel (which Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey adapted into an award-winning TV show) and her evolution into a passionate advocate for Black farmers.
We Are Each Other’s Harvest amplifies Black farmers’ role in American history and honors their perseverance despite numerous obstacles. Many of these obstacles stem from systemic racism within policies and practices across a range of institutions, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to myriad banks and realtors nationwide. These challenges have accumulated over time, as professor of ethnic studies Analena Hope Hassberg explains in the book’s introduction, and as a result, Black farmers now cultivate less than half of 1% of U.S. farmland due to the gradual loss of massive amounts of land.
But Baszile’s profiles of the Black farmers she met during her travels around the U.S. offer hope. She shares fascinating stories about family farms in North Carolina, Louisiana and California—as well as individuals forging new paths, like a classically trained chef who’s honing her food-preservation and wool-spinning skills at a farm school in Alaska. Quotations from the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., Booker T. Washington and Barack Obama, as well as poems by Ross Gay, Lucille Clifton and more, round out this abundant volume. We Are Each Other’s Harvest offers moving, edifying food for thought and will whet your appetite for action.