Earlier this month I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing Ron Kelley of R. Kelley Farms. You’ll never meet a more pleasant, down to earth person who simply loves the art of cultivating food. Although we’re now in the midst of winter and he’s only growing small batches of greens for his loyal customers who request regular Saturday pick-ups, my visit to Ron’s farm was nonetheless enlightening.
After writing last week’s post on food justice in North Oakland, and after watching Will Scott’s “Bring Back Black Farmers,” I was excited to interview a real life black farmer right here in Sacramento. Armed and ready with a post exploring political and social injustice within the food industry, I got fired up thinking about how many young African Americans are stuck in virtual wastelands of junk food, when years ago their great great grandparents were the ones growing and nurturing food for our entire nation. Of course, back then most black farmers were still relegated to eating leftovers and the worst parts of the animals they raised and butchered, so perhaps we’re simply further along the path of exploitation and inequality that was laid way back then.
So I asked Ron about his experience – what he felt about being a black farmer, and what his thoughts were as to why there’s such a disparity when it comes to black farmers in California. His response? “You know, I consider myself a small farmer. And I happen to be African American.”
And then I stepped down from my soap box.
Who am I to place the burden of spokesmanship on one farmer who just wants to contribute something good to his community? I’m not African American, but I love the contribution they and all other people of color have made to our culture, our society, our nation. It kills me to see ignorance and inequality ruin the richness we could all enjoy simply by embracing our differences and acknowledging how similar we are at heart.
However, Ron did follow up with a very good point. I’m not quoting verbatim, but it went something like this, “I think most black farmers who left the south did so with a pretty bad taste in their mouths. They just wanted a fresh start, and they wanted to get away from anything that reminded them of what they were fleeing.”
And that makes a whole lot of sense.
So in another post to honor Black History Month, I hope you enjoy this brief interview with Ron Kelley and share it with any young people you know who may need some encouragement pursuing a dream that doesn’t fit today’s stereotypical norm.
But more importantly, I hope you’ll support Ron’s farm with a visit this summer, and enjoy the fruits of his labor.
Contributed by Taryn Smith