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Feminist Farming: Learning Teshuvah from the Earth

I’m never fully satisfied telling this story or making this ask: from this white body, from this white organization. It never quite feels like enough to let people know that we’re not supposed to be here in the first place. Shouldn’t we leave? Urban farms offer vegetables and land connection, but also contribute to the process of gentrification. How can I make our presence — which has already happened — less harmful? So much of my feminist practice — which includes striving toward antiracism — is imperfect in this way; it is an attempt toward wellness while rooted in sick soil. 

I took this job with a hope that a Black farmer from the neighborhood would be excited about the garden, need work, and take over the position. The organization I worked for claimed to want to give the land back to community, and I agreed to the contract only because I saw myself as a willing bridge toward — hopefully — living into that claim.

Eventually, a farmer who’s Black and lives nearby took over my position, and it eased tensions a bit in the neighborhood. But I still feel and think about the texture of contradiction. How, to be a bridge inside a territory torn by centuries of racialized pain, is to make peace with seeming rickety, but staying with tension, suspended, and ready to hold what comes your way.

Feminism, Judaism, and the wisdom of the land give me something to hold onto when I am destabilized by the effort of confronting these contradictions. Specifically, I’ve been exploring the concept of teshuvah: returning my (our) soul to its right shape, going back and making things right the best I can, and forgiving myself for all that’s torn that I can’t, for one reason or another, mend. Sometimes I am so overwhelmed by the size of the pain, I don’t know where to begin to mend it. 

Creativity — zines, poems, ritual, art-space, community — has been the force I’ve tapped into over and over again to absorb the pain of contradiction, of never quite getting it right. Having principles to return to and hold me while I figure out how to be who I think this world needs me to be is an incredible grounding force. Creativity is the outlet for my shame: it allows my stuckness and fear a place of generative motion so I can take right action and be brave in my life.