The 164th recipient is Amber Officer-Narvasa of Star Apple Farm @starapplefarm in Emmaus, PA. Amber writes, “Star Apple Farm is a 1/4 acre farm centered on Caribbean and Southeast Asian crops. My love for farming and land justice comes from a childhood spent playing with earthworms and growing plants in urban parks and community gardens—spaces that were often threatened by gentrification and development. As the child of Jamaican and Filipino immigrants growing up in Brooklyn, NY, I saw both the inequities in the food system and the creativity of Black and brown people who found ways to access their culturally valuable foods.
I believe strongly that building a liberatory food system isn't just about making fresh produce available. It's also about honoring the specific seeds, plants, and dishes that have shaped people's cultures and lineages. Having more farmers markets and fresh groceries is great, but when people walk into a market, are they seeing the vegetables they cook with at home? Are they able to connect with farmers and vendors about the recipes they love? Are they able to access seeds to grow the food that's important to them? In a world where generic, corporate-produced vegetable varieties are often the easiest to find, and where so many heirloom and indigenous crops are in danger of being lost, it's important to me that people are able to experience the vegetables and herbs that are meaningful to their histories. In addition to fresh veggies, we need investment in practices of seedkeeping, storytelling, and cultural preservation work. Through my work vegetable farming as well as growing heirloom seed crops for the Truelove Seeds @trueloveseeds company, this is some of what I hope to make possible for current and future generations.
To me, farmer care is both personal and collective. Having more robust systems of farmer support would also look like better support for Black people, queer and trans people, parents, elders, and young people as a whole.
Imagine how many more people could be growing food and farms if we prioritized collective childcare and support for Black parents. If we prioritized worker-led farming operations and wages that allowed farmers to thrive. If resources like housing and mental healthcare were accessible and free. As a Black person without generational wealth, I do feel the pressures of starting a business and trying to farm in ways that are sustainable for me and the land. I think growing food and caring for the land are meant to be done in community, but because of the pressures of our current economic systems, people are often expected to farm on their own. Farming is never an individual endeavor for me: I see myself as responsible to and interwoven with local ecologies of humans, waterways, soil, and other living beings. I hope that as I move forward with this work, I can continue finding ways to work cooperatively with other farmers and support each other in caring for ourselves and the earth.”