The Color of Food: Stories of Race, Resiliance and Farming - May Book Review May 27 2017

Here’s a wonderful, serious, and important book as we step into summer. In The Color of Food, Natasha Bowens takes us on a road trip to meet farmers of color. They talk about farming and a history of land loss, struggle for water, and community. Bowens’s ancestors had worked the fields as slaves, but she does not equate farming with slavery as many of her fellow Black folks do. She does wonder why today’s food and farm movement doesn’t seem to include farmers or food movement leaders of color. This “Why not?” sent her across the country in all directions in search of an answer.


the color of food book coverBowens is introduced to vibrant communities of farmers, activists, and educators of color who have been steadily and tirelessly working the land and improving their lives and communities. And they have been at it long before today’s mainstream back-to-the-land movement got rolling. She found farmers and food activists of color who are reclaiming their deep agricultural roots and hoping to move others away from their farming-slavery mindset. They want them to see the freedom to be gained from regenerating the soil, their lives, and their traditional foods.

The 25 portraits she shares engage us in a history we either never knew or never understood. In the last five portraits, “Generation Rising,” we meet Bowens’ generation—the huge group of young people born between the early 1980s and early 2000s, aka the millennials. Their determination, ingenuity, and radicalism (as Angela Davis told us long ago, “Radical simply means grasping things at the root.”) point the way forward for multi-visions of ways to create a sustainable, regenerative food and agricultural system that is just and inclusive.  

Author Mark Winne summed up The Color of Food without beating around the bush:

“Natasha Bowens, through her compelling stories and powerful images of a rainbow of farmers, reminds us that the industrialization of our food system and the oppression of our people—two sides of the same coin—will, if not confronted, sow the seeds of our own destruction.”

Bowens’ hope is that The Color of Food might help broaden the lens of the mainstream food movement and honor the diversity of stories that are all essential in creating a sustainable and just future in food and agriculture.