The 189th recipient is Iriel Edwards @iriel_ricefarmer of Jubilee Justice @jubileejustice in Alexandria, LA.
Iriel writes, “Becoming a farmer was a beautifully serendipitous direction to take in my life. I had always been a nature nerd and active in my community, so I naturally fell in love with food justice work in college. In my senior year, I took a food systems class and quickly realized how underrepresented Black farmers were in the curriculum and in how I perceived farming. In investigating this, I became aware of the pervasive discrimination that continues to occur around black land ownership. Within weeks, I was introduced to a new organization called Jubilee Justice that wanted to reverse the trend of black land loss through cooperative economics in the South. In 2020, when the pandemic began and my campus shut down, I drove back to my home state of LA and began my career as a farmer, kickstarting the project on the ground. Today I continue to work with Black farmers across the Southeast growing organic grains and legumes in our cooperative.
Although farming is often considered a business, I am a firm believer that food can not be valued monetarily for its role is much more sacred. As an essential component of our wellbeing it is worth all that we have to give, making community so vital in maintaining our food system and livelihood. As a new farmer in such a humbling environment and economic system, I must constantly remind myself of the greater contribution of food and remember to stay rooted in the present rather than in obsessive frustrations around how things ought to be. I find strength in the gratitude I have for what I grow, my community, and a lineage of ancestors who did everything in their power to maintain my connection to soil. Self care to me is taking ample time to sit and listen to myself and cultivate mindfulness, appreciation, and compassion for food and people. Practicing gratitude and regular meditation help me grow the habit of giving myself love when I make mistakes and pulling my head above the waters to see the great ocean of change that I am a part of as a grower of food.”