Brad took me to Dew Point Farm last week to show off the fruits of his labor. They were strewn about our feet in bright yellow patches.
And I knew just what to do with them.
To Brad’s bewilderment, I started gathering branches, as many as my arms could hold.
He had spent the day cutting down an invasive chinaberry tree, smack in the middle of a vegetable field-to-be. While I was glad to check one more pre-planting task off the list, I could hear Mom’s voice recounting childhood tales of tea parties where she served plates of chinaberries to her friends, imagining them to be delicacies out-of-reach to a child growing up in the wake of the Great Depression.
So into a bag went every golden-dotted twig I could find, along with some greenery and pine cones, for a couple of harvest wreaths that couldn’t symbolize our farm any better. Something small and forgotten reclaimed, woven together with reminders from the past that the unwanted can become beautiful.
Reading an interview with Leah Penniman, author of ” Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land,” I was struck by her idea that reverence for ancestors is integral to farming. Those wreaths suddenly filled me with the sense that we weren’t alone in our attempt to stitch this abandoned soil into the patchwork of a neighborhood.
As Brad and I begin to grow food for those who have been marginalized for far too long, I give thanks to my father who was forced to drop out of school in the ninth grade to help his widowed mother farm. I give thanks to my mother who picked a hundred pounds of cotton each day of the harvest season to put Dad through college. And I give thanks to them both for showing me by example that there is honor in growing food for your family and community.