AFROPUNK BLKTOPIA: Food From the Source

July 7, 2024

The connectivity between American consumers and the products they use and eat is often seen as a bygone relic of the past. At one point, it was the norm to grow our produce and use products of more direct production-to-purchase pipelines. However, with the shifts that come with late-stage economic models, and heightened demand, scaling consumption of the things we wear, eat, and ultimately, dispose of can be a hazy process. So, to speak to this issue, Afropunk’s Blktopia page hosted a panel to put words to the concept of “Edible Utopias.” 

YouTube Black Voices program manager and lifelong family farmer, Adam McFarland joined Dreka Gates and Madera Rogers-Henry to discuss how best to bridge this gap. In addition to moderating the conversation, he impressed upon the urgency of the matter given the current political and environmental climates. The headlining speakers represented different ends of the generational reclamation of agriculture, which carries a weighted inheritance in the African-American tradition. Ms. Madera Rogers-Henry was first introduced to the world of natural remedies through her great-grandmother and carried these lessons with her through multiple moves to Germany, Denver, Canada, and various other parts of the United States. She eventually joined AmeriCorps because “I wanted to do something that benefited children. I’ve always worked with people [as a modeling coach], but this allowed me to develop a program for the community.” For Ms. Rogers-Henry, this endeavor kept growing through what eventually became The Recycle Challenge Crafting & Recycle Station programs, which introduce effective ways to reduce landfill waste services, events, and activities on repurposing and upcycling. Eighty to ninety percent of all donated materials are developed into costumes and new products. 

Similarly, Dreka Gates was also introduced to agriculture and natural remedies through her great-grandmother. The Louisana-born and-raised serial entrepreneur looks at farming as a way to revisit her roots, remembering summers learning how to tend to land with her cousins. “I used to go and spend my summers with my great-grandmother on her farm and we would have to go out and pick mulberries pick beans. She would sit me at the table with my little cousins while she cooked and it was an amazing education for me.” To own and operate a functioning farm in Mississippi is a testament to the longevity of a craft that traverses generations. Today, the farm known as Love’s Harvest is a sanctuary for people can learn about and experience the benefits of agriculture and cannabis in a supportive environment. She harcons the same points that her moderating host and co-panelist shared on their journeys: start small. Anything can be an act of agricultural reclamation. “Start low and go slow,” Dreka warmly advises. “If you have a balcony, if you have a windowsill, you can grow tomatoes or grow potatoes in a pot. You can pretty much grow anything in a pot.”