Agricultural Justice Advocate Onika Abraham to Keynote 40th Annual Ohio Sustainable Food and Farm Conference
Healing a history of oppression in agriculture by honoring the contributions of our ancestors will be the focus of a keynote address by farmer and educator Onika Abraham at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 40th annual conference, Just Farming: The Path Before Us, this February in Dayton, Ohio.
In her Saturday, February 16 keynote address, “Unearthing Our Roots,” Abraham, Executive Director of Farm School NYC, will explore why it’s as important for farmers to know where their farming comes from as it is for the public to know where their food comes from. Abraham will explore the history of sustainable growing practices, the contributions of black and brown people, and why these often obscured stories are an obstacle to beginning farmers of color claiming power and autonomy in this movement.
During remarks made before the 2018 Northeast Organic Farming Association-Vermont (NOFA-VT) conference, Abraham notes the stories of slaves, immigrants, and oppressed people can “connect us to traditional practices of our ancestors, practices that are reverent to the land, and these stories are the rich, intricate, fibrous roots of organic agriculture.”
“It’s important to recognize the very real ways farming has been used as a tool of oppression in the past, so we don’t replicate them in the present,” Abraham said. “Our current food system is still used as a tool of oppression in so many ways, against people of color, against people with disabilities, against immigrants and women and farm workers. It’s important to share these stories as a way to join together and to dismantle the system and build something better and more just in its place.”
Abraham is a farmer and educator with more than 15 years of experience in teaching, nonprofit management, marketing, and entrepreneurship.
She was a teacher at Farm School NYC, before becoming its Executive Director in 2014, where she works to train residents in urban agriculture in order to build self-reliant communities and inspire positive local action around food access and social, economic, and racial justice issues.
She has completed the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Brooklyn Urban Gardener certification program and the 1,000 hour Farm and Garden Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture at the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) in Santa Cruz. She served on CASFS’s Social Justice Action Committee, helping expand the curriculum, diversify of staff and faculty, and create more support systems for apprentices of color.
Abraham is one of the co-founders of Black Urban Growers and has helped organize three national Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners Conferences. She is a founder and teacher of A Farmers’ Yoga and a founding member and volunteer at Seedkeepers Collective, a people of color-led seed saving initiative. She previously managed communications for the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group and has previously served as Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Safe Horizon, which empowers victims of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, and human trafficking.
“We’re so pleased to have Onika at our 2019 conference, which is focused on agricultural justice,” said OEFFA Program Director Renee Hunt. “Acknowledging the roots of agriculture and considering the ways in which injustice continue to permeate it is essential for forging a path to a healthier food system.”
On Friday, February 15, Abraham will also lead a 90-minute workshop, “Rooting Up,” for attendees who want a deeper, more personal exploration of the themes she will explore in her keynote.
Abraham will speak as part of Ohio’s largest sustainable food and farm conference, which will run Thursday, February 14 through Saturday, February 16 at the Dayton Convention Center.
In addition to Abraham, this year’s conference will feature keynote speaker Elizabeth Henderson on February 15; nearly 80 educational workshops; four full-day Food and Farm School classes on February 14; a three-day trade show; evening entertainment; activities for children; locally-sourced meals; a raffle; book sales and signings, and more.
For more information about the conference, or to register, go to www.oeffa.org/conference2019.