We Are Each
Other's Harvest: Celebrating African American Farmers, Land,
by Natalie Baszile
$29.99 / $36.99 Canada
By Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Truth Contributor
One little hole in the ground.
Thatís all it takes, as big around as your little finger, a
pencil eraser, a coffee stirrer. A tiny fissure in the
Earth, thatís what you need to grow dinner next week or next
winter, flowers for your table, sustenance for your animals
or, as in the new book We Are Each Otherís Harvest
by Natalie Baszile, a tie to your past.
Years ago, while taking weekly provisions to an elderly
relative, Natalie Baszile learned that the presence of food
in a neighborhood (or its lack) could be a racial issue.
Shortly afterward, she discovered that her ancestors had
been involved in farming, long before she was born. That's
not unusual: as we learn in the introduction here, nearly
all African Americans today can claim that farming is in
It's never been a smooth thing, though.
Over and over in previous decades, Black farmers paid
faithfully each month to buy farms from white landowners,
only to ultimately, cruelly be denied ownership. Others
persevered, and then lost their land through lack of
financial literacy, or problems with banks, the USDA or the
Farm Service Administration (FSA), the latter which,
suggested one farmer, seemed to have been created to make
And yet, there were bright spots: like folks a century ago,
Black farmers know that sticking together is best for all.
They're speaking up and persevering, in planting and
paperwork. Black farmers have learned to think around bigger
issues by forming Black-owned co-ops, teaching new farmers,
making sure the next generation wants ownership of the
business, and ignoring old myths that say women don't farm.
Black farmers are mentoring. They're redefining the word
"farm." They're doing what it takes to keep possession of
their land because for them, there just isn't any better way
So you know where your food comes from. Bonus points if you
grew it yourself. Even better, when you read We Are Each
Other's Harvest after you're done weeding.
Using a little of this (fiction excerpts, poetry, and
quotations), along with a little of that (essays,
interviews, first-person tales, and history), author Natalie
Baszile gives praise to Black farmers and ranchers, showing
that what may seem like a newly-discovered connectedness to
the land goes way back. It is, in fact, a slice of the past
that's rich as a fertile field, but also loaded with rocks
that crushed many dreams.
And yet, while the stories Baszile lets loose need a wider
audience today Ė they can't be silent anymore Ė anger at the
past isn't the reason for this book. No, this is much more
of a prayer for the Black stewards of the land, and for
those who've listened to their hearts and stood, one hand
filled with dirt and the other with seeds.
Whether you are a farmer, know one, or accept the fruits of
one's labor, this book is the perfect meditation. Lush as a
spring morning but sharp as barbed wire, We Are Each
Other's Harvest is a book for the well-grounded.