Sowing Holistic Foodways: 5 Womxn and Non-Binary Folx Ushering in the Food Revolution

“The Recovery of the people is tied to recovery of food, since food itself is medicine – not only for the body but also for the soul and the spiritual connection to history, ancestors, and the land.

Winona LaDuke

How have womxn disproportionately dealt with issues related to food security and food justice? Who is responsible for agro-industry and its devastating effects on the Earth’s peoples and natural systems? And who will lead the way into more holistic and regenerative food systems?

These are all questions that the eco-feminist food movement seeks to answer. By emphasizing the intersection of womxn and nature as oppressed under similar patriarchal structures, we understand that voices so ignored in the industry are those that carry the wisdom and the way to holistic foodways. This article highlights the work of five profound womxn and non-binary folx who break chains daily to revolutionize the food system, thus fortifying our connections with our bodies, our communities, and the Earth at large.

1. Sana Javeri Kadri

photo by Laila Bahman

In 2016, Sana Javeri Kadri, with an awareness of the injustice so deeply integrated into the American spice market, sought to create a radically inclusive spice company that places economic and social authority into the hands of Indian farmers.

The result is Diaspora Co. , a queer, womxn-of-color owned business rooted in justice and fair trade. The Oakland based company sources turmeric from a fouth-generation, family-owned organic farm in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, India, paying farmers up to six times the average commodity price for turmeric via direct trade, eliminating the middlemen traditionally intertwined in the spice market.

By working closely with the Institute of Spices Research, Kadri successfully ensures a 100% heirloom product that promotes the health and heritage of organic turmeric while celebrating tradition and origin. Her business serves as a platform to champion womxn and queer people of color, fostering community in Oakland and beyond, and ultimately serving as a decolonizing force in agro-industry.

2. Jillian Hishaw

Photo courtesy of Jillian Hishaw

Jillian Hishaw studied law at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, where she was made aware of the social, economic, and legal oppression facing black American farmers, who make up less than two percent of America’s farming population.

After the loss of her own family farm, she launched Family Agriculture Resource Management Services (FARMS), an organization dedicated to protecting black and other historically disadvantaged farmers from losing their land. FARMS provides legal and technical assistance to farmers in navigating complicated agricultural law and ultimately in avoiding foreclosure and land loss.

The FARMS to Food Bank program, another facet of the non-profit organization, helps farmers sell surplus produce and meat at a discount to food banks in their communities, tackling food security and justice related issues in typically food insecure communities.

Hishaw’s work promotes and upholds diversity in the world of American agriculture, an industry that tends to place the wellbeing of farmers of color on the back burner. By helping black American farmers maintain their land, her work deconstructs agro-industry and reshapes our food future from the ground up.

3. Vandana Shiva 

Photo courtesy of Dr. Vandana Shiva

Dr. Vandana Shiva is an Indian scholar, environmental activist, and food sovereignty advocate with a focus on radical deep ecology and ecofeminism. As a leader of the International Forum on Globalization, she views agriculture as a tool to preserve biodiversity and indigenous knowledge.

Shiva founded Seed Freedom, a movement and organization committed to ‘the laws of Gaia, Pachamama, Vasundhara, Mother Earth.’ With a dedication to protecting the integrity of the native seed, she has worked with local communities and organizations to establish 34 seed banks in 13 states across the country.

As the founder of the gender unit at the International Centre for Mountain Development (ICIMOD) as well as the Women’s Environment & Development Organization (WEDO), and the author of various books and over 300 papers on the green revolution, the global food supply, and privatization and more, she is the recipient of the Right Livelihood Award, the Global 500 Award of the UN, the Lennon Ono Grant for Peace, and one of Time magazine’s “Environmental Heros”. Ultimately, she works tirelessly to protect the food sovereignty and heritage of India’s farmers.

4. Luz Calvo

Photo courtesy of University of Arizona Global

Luz Calvo is a Professor of Ethnic Studies at Cal State East Bay where they teach courses in Latino/a Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Food Justice, and Ethnic Studies. Dr. Calvo focuses on the American diet as an act of colonization that exploits traditional indigenous foods and peoples and disproportionately harms communities of color. Through ancestral foodways, they unearth passageways into health, sovereignty, and the reclaiming of culture.

Dr. Calvo co-authored Decolonize Your Diet with their partner, Catriona R. Esquibel, an assistant professor in Race and Resistance Studies at San Francisco State University. Decolonize Your Diet is a collection of plant-based recipes, cooking techniques, and discourse of ingredients that promote knowledge and utilization of ancestral foods, herbs, and teas. Its goal? to connect people to the healing properties of food, not only for nutritional reasons, but also for its ways of creating comfort and fostering connection.

The central tenet of the book is “Comida es Medicina” (Food is Medicine). The Standard American Diet has cause disproportionate rates of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer within US-born Latinx communities – for Calvo, every meal is an opportunity to heal, to tap into ancestral roots, and to break the chains of an agricultural system that benefits few and harms most.  

5. Winona LaDuke

Promotional photo for the Kickstarter campaign Winona’s Hemp and Heritage Farm, 2017.

As Program Director of Honor the Earth, an organization dedicated to promoting ‘indigenous wisdom, music, and art to raise awareness and support for Indigenous Environmental Issues”, Winona LaDuke works to secure financial and political resources for the survival of Native communities and their traditions.  

One of LaDuke’s primary areas of concern is food sovereignty, ‘the right of people to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods’. She works to restore ancient, diverse varieties of food, allowing tribes to regain control of their own food and economies, and in turn fostering soil health and carbon sequestration.

As the author of six books, the executive director of two non-profits, and the recipient of countless awards including an induction into the National Women’s’ Hall of Fame, one of Time magazine’s fifty most promising leaders under forty years of age, and the Slow Food Award for Biodiversity, Winona LaDuke fights the good fight, nurturing the roots of the peoples who worked this land first.

As the Earth embodies extreme transition, so too should we.  For questions of a more regenerative food system, one rooted in justice, biodiversity, and fair trade in the most literal sense, answers lie with womxn and non-binary folx.

Let us decolonize our minds and shift leadership into the hands of the feminine forces that create monumental waves in the food system daily. Let us look to these five spectacular examples of people who work tirelessly to create a new food system, one rooted in holistic processes, ancestral roots, ethical trade, and decolonization. Only then will we harvest the holistic food future ourselves and this Earth so firmly demand.

Earth Journeys is honored to offer programs to support earth-rooted, free-spirited and heart-centered leaders embody their vision, cultivate wholeness from within, stay accountable, bloom into their passion and make an impact and a livelihood. Next up is an intimate 3-Month Online Group Mentorship Program with a 3-day in-person retreat included beginning May 1st, 2019. If this calls to you as a leader, apply before it fills up!