Farming While Black

Film Screening

Join us for a special screening of a powerful feature film highlighting the inspiring journey of young Black farmers, featuring Leah Penniman, the 2023 Visionary Leadership Awardee and author of “Farming While Black.” From the heyday of Black-owned farms in 1910 to their decline today, Leah and her colleagues at Soul Fire Farm shed light on the challenges faced by Black farmers in the United States. Explore the deep historical roots of African agrarianism and discover how a new generation is reclaiming their heritage to cultivate a brighter future for us all.

Mark Decena

Raised by an immigrant single mother, Mark spent his formative years softening hard adobe clay soil with compost. Besides keeping him in line, it infused Decena with a love of growing things– to date: feature films, television shows, and short film series.

A three time Sundance alumni, Mark's first feature, Dopamine won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize. Decena's documentary work spans across themes of social justice, sustainable design and the environment. He wrote and directed the Redford Center film, Watershed, and was a writer and producer on Stand Up Planet, a Gates funded project that aired on Participant Media’s channel, Pivot and KCET. His latest feature film, Not Without Us, premiered as the closing night film at the S.F. Green Film Festival and aired nationally on PBS. Decena’s latest short films, Remothering the Land, co-produced with Patagonia Films, premiered at the DC Environmental Film Festival, and Me & My Robot premiered at COPDOX and aired on PBS. Mark is also the founder of Kontent, a boutique production company based in San Francisco, housing a Kollective of award winning filmmakers, producers and creatives working on original and branded works.

Héctor “Freedom” Gerardo

Freedom Gerardo is co-founder of SEAmarron Farmstead and E&G Community Builders. He built these two businesses with one thing in mind: building people power in BIPOC communities. Freedom has dedicated his life to organizing youth, teaching them about power, the power they have individually and as a collective – and the power and potential of their communities.

Throughout his career, food insecurity has been the preeminent issue to tackle. Freedom is now building a multi-layered, long-term agenda to end food insecurity by farming and organizing communities to build power and reimagining a new food system centered around justice and equity.

Having worked with nonprofits and unions throughout the country in several different capacities, Freedom has gathered the knowledge necessary to help lead organizations to identify their strength and create lasting change. Freedom created numerous multi-generational coalitions that were used successfully to win campaigns, and continued to use said coalitions to advance other political, legislative, and social objectives. Lastly, Freedom has a proven record of creating and implementing multi-year strategic plans that have supported the vision of organizations while also ensuring that the plan was tangible and transparent for all.

Dishaun Harris

I am an urban farmer in New Haven, CT with more than 13 years of experience growing food and educating community members on growing food for themselves. I was born and raised in the city that my business serves. I strongly believe that all people should have sovereignty over their food systems because that leads to greater sovereignty over their lives!

In 2018 I decided to start my own culturally relevant agriculture business that specifically targeted the Black & Brown communities in my city. I founded Root Life LLC which focuses on community upliftment & empowerment through urban farming, urban farm training, food justice education, agritourism, food aid efforts & community focused health events.

I am growing out of 6 different spaces in New Haven County this year; those spaces include the Armory Community Garden, Big Starr Community Garden, 333 Valley St Farm, Hill Farm &Ferry Street Community Farm, & an indoor grow space at ConnCorp’s Lab Incubator Business Office.

I currently serve on the Black Farmer Fund Investment Committee, National Young Farmers Coalition's 'Cultivemos' Mental Health Farmer Advisory Board & Liberated Land Cooperative’s Steering Committee.

We use organically aligned, sustainable & regenerative practices to grow food of the highest quality. We don’t use any chemical fertilizers or pesticides and we grow our food using certified organic seeds and organic soil. We specialized in Afro-Indigenous culturally relevant crops including collards, callaloo, mustards, kale, tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, hot peppers, squash, cucumbers and much more!

Vetiveah Harrison

Vetiveah Harrison is a Black American/Creole native from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Her parents birthed an entrepreneurship spirit within her that kickstarted a journey of urban farming, herbalism, nutrition, food justice, anti-hunger advocacy, and economic development strategy. She is an expert with 10 years of in-depth food system industry knowledge. She is motivated by the dire need to have a more equitable food system and channels this motivation through leading efforts that inspire, educate, and transform marginalized Black communities and organizations that serve Black communities.

She is currently a Program Manager for CitySeed Food Business Incubator, a nonprofit organization that reduces barriers to food entrepreneurship in New Haven by working to create economic opportunity for all, increasing leadership by people-of-color and immigrant food entrepreneurs, and strengthening our local food system by linking food entrepreneurs to source food from farmers. At CitySeed, Vetiveah, plays a major role in supporting entrepreneurs in launching their food businesses by providing an affordable commercial kitchen, helping with obtaining permits, licenses, insurance, marketing needs, creating basic business plans, and successfully entering the marketplace. Through her commitment to this role, she has helped CitySeed improve their training, support, and resources food entrepreneurs need the most.

Outside her capacity at CitySeed, Vetiveah serves as the Committee Chairwoman for Environmental Justice at the NAACP Bridgeport Chapter. Additionally, she works part-time as an Urban Farmer and Community Nutrition Educator, providing vital support to various nonprofit organizations in Bridgeport, New Haven, and Chicago. Her work involves cultivating food in urban spaces, school gardens, and community gardens. Vetiveah offers straightforward nutrition guidance, aiming to enhance dietary choices, while also addressing food waste issues and ending food apartheid.