Creating a just food system begins with land—who owns it, how they own it, and how it gets passed down from one generation to the next.
The food justice movement is one of the most promising political developments of the last generation. It has broadened and deepened environmentalism by knitting together concerns about economic inequality, labor rights, environmental health, and sustainable agriculture. But what often goes unmentioned in our discussions of food justice is that it all begins with land—who owns it, how they own it, and how it gets passed down from one generation to the next. This is something Savi Horne never forgets: Food justice requires land justice.
As executive director of the Land Loss Prevention Project, Savi Horne helps use the power of the law to keep African Americans farmers in North Carolina from losing their land to indebtedness, legal challenges, and gentrification, while offering technical support for farmers to make their enterprises economically viable and environmentally sustainable.
I spoke with her on Nov. 4 during the Tales from Planet Earth film festival in Madison, Wisconsin.
Monica White: How did you come to fight on behalf of Black farmers?
Savi Horne: I came to this work from a union perspective. I went to Rutgers Law School and worked for District Council 37 and, through marriage, found my way south. I had been in Zimbabwe for a year prior to coming to North Carolina, working with one of the most prominent African American NGOs in southern Africa, Africare. There I became interested in what it meant to be a smallholder farmer on land that is contested. At the time, 94 percent of all the arable land and 97 percent of the water rights in Zimbabwe were owned by the minority Whites. Once back in the American South, I grew my knowledge of Black farmers, discrimination, and dispossession, as written about by Pete Daniel.