This list is by no means exhaustive, and these groups are certainly not alone in the fight for more food justice. Across the country, queer folks and people of color are getting organized and coming up with real solutions for a food system that they say is leaving marginalized communities behind.
Israel Tordoya is one of the founding members of Mariposas Rebeldes, an Indigenous and Latinx farming collective led by queer, trans, and intersex people of color (QTIPOC) near Atlanta, Georgia. They understand better than most what justice and equality in the food system really look like, and why so many people are joining the cause.
“Having access to food and water is the most important challenge for anyone fighting towards liberation,” said Tordoya, one of the group’s founding members. “You can’t advocate for yourself or work on radical projects if you’re starving.”
Like Mariposas Rebeldes, the collectives below are all led by those most affected by food apartheid—Black, Brown, and Indigenous people of color (BBIPOC), and LGBTQIA+ folks—who utilize tools such as regenerative agricultural practices, agroecology, veganic farming, and ancestral food practices to decolonize our food system and make it more equitable.
“Everyone has their own experience and influences as to why they want to renew their relationship with food,” explained Ale Tolley, one of the members of Veggie Mijas, a women of color-led vegan collective with 11 active chapters throughout the United States. Tolley says they’re working to reclaim power in the food system, power to sustain themselves and their community.
Veggie Mijas began in 2017 as an Instagram page for college students looking for delicious recipes to make in their dorm but has grown into a collective with 11 different chapters for vegans of color. Their mission is to create a space for those most harmed by the contemporary food apartheid system, women and trans folks of color, and to create sacred space for their community to explore a version of veganism focused on consistent-anti oppression tenants.
This women of color (WOC)-led vegan collective focused on exploring ancestral food practices, fighting for food justice and animal liberation, and decolonizing our food system. In addition to organizing events such as potlucks, vegan panels, and farm sanctuary trips, Veggie Mijas also conducts teach-ins for planting herbs, cooking traditional Afro-Dominican foods, and remodeling garden spaces. Veggie Mijas chapters in Austin and Philadelphia have secured plots of lands and started local community gardens.
“At their garden demos, they discuss the importance of localizing our food systems, provide education and tools on how to grow their own food, and create a long-lasting bond within their community and soil,” Tolley, who is also the group’s Creative Writer Director, said. They’ve even put together a zine called Casa Verde, meaning “green home,” that collects recipes for veganized traditional dishes from Columbia, El Salvador, Venezuela, Peru, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Mexico.
“We believe that learning how to plant our own food, being in touch with Mother Earth and her dirt, learning how to cook traditionally, and eating together is what makes a community,” the group’s founder, Amy Quichiz, said. “All of our chapters are doing what they believe food justice looks like in their community.” Veggie Mijas has been featured in the New York Times, MTV News, VICE, Self Magazine, VegNews, and Mercy For Animals.
Grow Where You Are
Grow Where You Are is a company that has facilitated the creation of 18 urban farms, 14 school gardens, and 40+ home gardens. Their projects directly target racial inequalities in our food systems and work towards building equal access to land and fresh, healthy foods for low-income urban communities.
The company also offers vegan agroecology training, assists in ecological restoration in food deserts, and has partnered with groups to plant over 400 fruit trees in cities around the world. They utilize veganic farming techniques in their food gardens and work towards food sovereignty, community health, and food security by promoting plant-based diets, initiating a series of pop-up farmers’ markets, and selling affordable produce from their farm site.
Sylvanaqua Farms is an employee-owned cooperative that provides its products to farmers’ markets and restaurants in the DC and Virginia areas. Using their farm as an example, the employees at Sylvanaqua are dedicated to democratizing its local food system. They envision a vertically integrated, employee-owned cooperative of farms, affordable wholesome and local food for communities, and agricultural labor opportunities for communities that have historically faced land dispossession.
Chris Newman, a farmer at Sylvanaqua Farms, said that this is not easy. “The solution to the food-sustainability problem—the one I think will really work—isn’t simple. Complex, deep-rooted problems don’t have easy solutions,” he said. “It calls for massive disruption of a deeply entrenched global food supply chain. It would require a huge influx of human capital into a vastly transformed agriculture sector.”
To do this, Newman believes we need to break from our current colonial food system that is built on commodification and exploitation and move towards more sustainable foodways that are based on ancestral knowledge. The “food revolution” he calls for requires raising and listening to Indigenous voices and seismically shifting from the way we currently relate to our world and the people and nonhumans in it.
Earth Seed is a collective founded in 2012 stewarding 48 acres of land in Durham, North Carolina led by Black and Brown leaders addressing systemic oppression through cooperative ownership of land, democratic decision marking, skill-sharing, and land stewardship models. Their mission is to reimagine and transform our food system, interrogate our relationship to the land, and pursue collective liberation through skill sharing, community wellness, financial independence and self-determination, and environmental sustainability.
Courtney Woods, a public health scholar and member of Earth Seed, said in Southern Cultures that, “We are holders of space where people of color can come and get free and feel safe. We’re helping ourselves reconnect and to understand that there’s no separation between us and the natural world.”
Earth Seed works towards food justice and food sovereignty by growing food informed by traditional agrarian foodways, regenerative agricultural practices, and agro-ecology that offer an alternative and resistance to the current industrial food system. Earth Seed also offers a space for community building and resilience. They host changemakers and cultural workers, offer their location as a base for regional organizing, and share their model with other burgeoning collectives and farms.
Wildseed Community Farm & Healing Village
Wildseed Community Farm & Healing Village is a community and “site of belonging” situated on 181 acres of land in the mid-Hudson Valley in New York State and led by BBIPOC, queer and trans folks, farmers, and activists. This collective works towards the liberation of communities that have historically faced land disenfranchisement and that are currently on the frontlines of environmental injustice. Wildseed’s projects are built on principles such as self-determination, reverence for the Earth, intimacy, interdependence, liberatory economics, intergenerational responsibility, inclusivity, and restorative justice.
The Mississippi Center for Cultural Production, or Sipp Culture, is a community placed-based project located in Utica, Mississippi that that promotes economic empowerment and self-sufficiency through the training and development of young farmers. In Spring of 2021, they launched a Small Farm Apprentice Program, an 18-month paid training program that encourages youth to reimagine their local food systems and teaches individuals sustainable and regenerative farming practices. Sipp Culture also hosts the research project, Equitable Food Futures, which uses storytelling to document how their community thinks about accessing and sharing food.
Mariposas Rebeldes, or the Rebel Butterflies, is an Indigenous and Latinx collective led by QTIPOC in Muscogee (Creek) land, also known as Atlanta, GA, whose mission is to foster community, restore relationships to the land that were lost through forced dispossession, imagine alternatives to capitalism, and promote food autonomy through cooperative agriculture.
“I think of food autonomy as more like the capacity to choose what foods we can grow, process, and enjoy, and share,” one of the founding members of the Mariposas Rebeldes, Wotko Tristan, shared in VOGUE. “When a community satisfies those needs, nobody’s hungry. That is a perfect picture of food autonomy. We don’t have that anywhere in the world.”
Another founding member, Israel Tordoya, explained that “the project started in the midst of the pandemic in my backyard. I would have friends over to help build raised beds and share seedlings, and eventually, it blossomed into Mariposas Rebeldes once we realized there were no queer-Latinx-led spaces in Atlanta to learn about agriculture and food autonomy,” said Tordoya. “The pandemic put into stark focus how unstable our current food system is, and there was a ton of energy put into this project as more and more people realized that.”
The group recently acquired a one-third acre property in South Atlanta and is currently raising funds to build the infrastructure to foster a QTIPOC-centered community garden space, after being forced to vacate their previous property. “So much of state and corporate control of food resources in the urban context is informed by the racist history of city planning,” said Tordoya. “Food autonomy is fundamentally about resisting these patterns and finding ways to manage these resources equitably.”
Queer Nature is an educational project in Washington State that imagines a decolonized queer ‘ancestral futurism’ for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, two-spirit (LGBTQ2+) and queer and trans Black and Indigenous people of color (QTBIPOC) people who have been disconnected from the land. Queer Nature through its programming encourages inter-species alliances, environmental stewardship, and revitalized relationships with Indigenous ancestors through building relationships with the land built on ancestral knowledge.
Envisioned and led by Pinar and So Sinopoulos-Lloyd, Queer Nature encourages ecological awareness, teaches survival and earth-based living skills, and promotes a deep engagement with nature and nonhuman animals. They have held workshops and training on wildlife tracking, trailing, learning bird language, basket weaving, and carving. Queer Nature has been featured in the following magazines and podcasts: Aligned, Grist, So Many Wings, and For the Wild, among others.
Soul Fire Farm
Soul Fire Farm, founded by Leah Penniman, is an Afro-Indigenous-centered community farm in New York State committed to food sovereignty, ancestral farming practices, sustainable farming, and mentorship for a new generation of activist farmers. In addition to producing and distributing food to communities in food deserts, Soul Fire Farm reaches over 10,000 people each year through its farming training for BBIPOC, reparations, land return initiatives, food justice workshops, and policy work. Penniman has also published a field guide on how BBIPOC can follow Soul Fire Farm’s model, Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land. Soul Fire Farm has been featured on NPR, VICE, Afropunk, Mother Jones, VOGUE, and many other outlets.
The Food Empowerment Project
The Food Empowerment Project (FEP) is a vegan food justice organization that was founded in 2007 by lauren ornelas. FEP speaks out against animal abuse, environmental degradation caused by factory farming, unfair working conditions for farmworkers, and issues of food apartheid. FEP centers on those people who have been most harmed by the contemporary industrial and colonial food system—BBIPOC, farmworkers, and women of color—and are vocal against racism, casteism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism. FEP also works towards community access to healthy foods and supports legislative and regulatory campaigns that work towards regional and national policy changes.
Zane is an activist-scholar, co-editor of Queer and Trans Voices: Achieving Liberation Through Consistent Anti-Oppression, and the founder of Roots DEI Consulting and Policy.