The Land of Milk Versus Honey

By Kehmari Norman

I look 14. I noticed a re-tweet online that read:

I like my women to age like wine, not like milk.

I laughed. I thought deeply. My mom looks 29. By wisdom, force, and/or obligation, my ancestors ate certain foods and retained a sacred relationship with such foods. These tokens of wisdom, force-fed, obligatory edibles live in the garden that I serve in North Philadelphia and are handled in a similar fashion. I forage and fast in the heart of a food desert. The 15th Street Garden, on the corner of 15th and Diamond Street, is, to me, a time capsule. I've helped to construct this portal starting in 2014

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Vietlead -Serving up Vietnamese History & Culture Through Food

Vietlead is a new-- literally grassroots-- community organization that is serving the Vietnamese community in Philadelphia and South Jersey composed of members who seek to build a community, cultural, and people-centered vision for self determination. Our programs include Resilient Roots Community Farm, OurRoots youth organizing project, and Senior Health Promotion. Resilient Roots (RR) is a half acre intergenerational farm partnered with Vietnamese refugee elder families and high school students from Camden County to build local ownership and resiliency on top of a vacant concrete lot in East Camden!

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Community Gardens of West Philly Tour

Info from Hidden City Philadelphia:

Community Gardens of West Philly

June 18 @ 10:00 am - 12:00 pm

Cost: Free! Please CLICK HERE to register

Philadelphia boasts several hundred community gardens, and each of them has a story to tell. Some have been tended to for more than 40 years while others are recent additions to a neighborhood, but only a few are preserved as permanent growing spaces for future generations of gardeners. This free, approximately two mile walking tour will be in held in conjunction with the 3rd Annual Community Gardens Day, a citywide celebration organized by the Neighborhood Gardens Trust. Here’s what we’ve got on tap.

• Farm51 (5103 Chester Avenue) is a small-scale educational urban farm and market. Part production site, part neighborhood hangout, Farm51 is a homey blend of animal, people, and plants.

• St. Bernard Community Garden (1008-1010 St. Bernard Street) Tucked away next to the regional rail line, this vacant lot was transformed into a vibrant green space in the late 1980s. The St. Bernard Gardeners have fought hard for its preservation.

• Chester Avenue Community Garden (4700 block of Chester Ave) Hidden behind a screen of trees, this secret garden grows bountiful flowers and vegetables.

• Warrington Community Garden (4731 Warrington)Take an herbal tour and sip mint tea at one of West Philly’s largest and oldest gardens, started in 1973.

• The Woodlands (4000 Woodland Ave.) Designated as a National Historic Landmark District, the Woodlands’ 54-acre property hosts a community garden complete with raised beds, beehives, and a rain garden. It is also graced by the Grave Gardeners a new group of volunteers who tend cradle graves, originally designed to be planters in the Victorian era.

This free tour will be led by Amy Laura Cahn, Director of the Garden Justice Legal Initiative of the Public Interest Law Center.

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Stormwater Billing Exemption

Councilmember Quiñones Sánchez introduced legislation to create a stormwater billing exemption for gardens and farms. This is a critical piece in ensuring long term garden preservation and furthers the city’s work on green stormwater infrastructure. There will be a hearing on this bill on June 2nd at 10 a.m. in City Council Chambers.

Language of the bill is here:|Text|&Search=160523&FullText=1

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From PACDC: Land Bank Sees Its First Withdrawals

The Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations (PACDC) sent an email about the first withdrawals from the Land Bank. Here is the email:

"Exciting developments from the Philadelphia Land Bank: the first properties are moving through the Land Bank! The properties were first transferred into the Land Bank on December 9th and moved to Council and the Vacant Property Review Committee which both provided approval in mid-April. The final step will be for approval by the Land Bank Board. Both properties are intended to be used for new residential construction - one occupied by the applicant and the other part of a larger site assemblage.

The Land Bank has also moved forward on acquiring properties. Since December 2015 more than 1,700 publicly owned properties have been approved for transfer into the Land Bank, including nearly all properties held by the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation. On May 12th the Board authorized the acquisition of the first set of properties to be pulled from Sheriff Sale using the Land Bank's new powers to acquire privately owned, tax delinquent properties. More properties are slated to be similarly acquired in the next few months.

We applaud the dedicated Land Bank employees who have worked hard to make the Philadelphia Land Bank operational!"


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USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service focus group meeting

The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is having a focus group meeting to gather information, comments, suggestions, etc. from you on how NRCS can serve you better. The meeting is planned for May 24, 2016 at 4pm. Saul High School in Philadelphia has been selected as the place for having the meeting. The meeting will be conducted by a group of contractors NRCS has hired.

For this meeting NRCS is concentrating on getting input from urban farmers. NRCS is learning about urban agriculture and once it has gathered the information needed from the farmers, and according to the need and resources, NRCS may need to collect information from gardeners.

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Black Women's Shattered Silence

Over the past few months, I have been collaborating on a chapter about black land issues with three amazing sista-friends, who are champions in the black agrarian movement. What is this black agrarian movement, you might ask? To me, this is the authentic process of enthusiastic, grower-activists reaffirming through political means, our ancestral connection with the land through growing food while caring for the earth and each other, always in honor of our ancestors. While trying to finish up our writing before our deadline, it dawned on me that it was women’s history month and because I had been so busy with the book I had not taken time to outwardly acknowledge and celebrate the women in my life. This blog post is dedicated to the sistas, who over the last few months of writing, inspired, encouraged, and held me up as we Reclaimed the voices of women growers through our writing. Aleya Frasier, Dara Cooper, and Shakara Tyler...I love you.

For many years, and even now, generations of black folks who migrated north to escape life in the south, returned home in search of spiritual nourishment, a healing, that was fundamentally connected to reaffirming one’s connection to nature, to a contemplative life where one could take time, sit on a porch, walk, fish, and catch lightning bugs. If we think of urban life as a location where black folks learned to accept a mind/body split that made it possible abuse the body, we can better understand the growth of nihilism and despair in the black psyche. And we can know when we talk about healing that psyche we must also speak about restoring our connection to the natural world.

- bell hooks, Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Discovery

Earth Mother, is how I’ve come to know her. The nurturing, comforting, healing goddess of life. Though just like a mother, she is not always kind in her lessons of growth for us, but always teaching, sharing, giving. I heard her call first, in the hills of Oneonta, NY, though I am sure it was not her first call to me. Being intimately in relationship with the earth has taught me a lot about the value of women.

My life as a community organizer and activist, dedicated to the simultaneous eradication and rebuilding of our food system, has placed many strong women in my circle, whom I have come to love. They are special to me because of my relationship to them, though we are all products of our environment. I am perpetually surrounded by powerful women in the food movement as well as the liberation movement for black people. I feel that we are all blessed to have so many strong Black women, ancestors and elders who have come before us, to guide, protect and grow us as we work for our families and communities. In fact, this is part of our history as black people in this country: A constant representation of strong, community-minded black women.

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"Just Enough Green": A Discussion on Environmental Gentrification

Gentrification has been a consistent trend in urban neighborhoods, which results in increased property values resulting in the displacement of lower-income families, businesses, and eventually changing the entire neighborhood structure. Recently, Philadelphia has been experiencing a massive gentrification movement. However, a new type of gentrification has been creeping into neighborhoods in the form of “environmental improvement/repair” more commonly known as “environmental gentrification.”

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