The Color of Food

Stories of Race, Resilience and Farming

Imagine the typical American farmer. Many people visualize sun-roughened skin, faded overalls, and calloused hands – hands that are usually white. While there’s no doubt the growing trend of organic farming and homesteading is changing how the farmer is portrayed in mainstream media, farmers of color are still largely left out of the picture.

The Color of Food seeks to rectify this. By digging into the lives of Black, Native, Asian and Latina farmers, and recognizing critical issues that lie at the intersection of race and food, this stunning collection of portraits and stories challenges the status quo of agrarian identity. Author, photographer and biracial farmer Natasha Bowens’ quest to explore her own roots in the soil leads her to unearth a larger story, weaving together the seemingly forgotten history of agriculture for people of color, the issues they face as farm owners today, and the culture and resilience they bring to food and farming.

The Color of Food teaches us that the food and farm movement is about more than buying local and protecting our soil. It is about preserving culture and community, digging deep into the places we’ve overlooked and honoring those who have come before us. Blending storytelling, photography, oral history and unique insight, these pages remind us that true food sovereignty means a place at the table for everyone.

Book Reviews

“We have been digging into this incredible book, The COLOR of FOOD, as a way to explore our core values during the 2015 GreenLeaf Summer Program. Each week we choose a theme and our youth crew reads one of the author’s beautiful portraits of farmers across the US that exemplify the theme. So far we’ve talked about how Pang Chang’s life models Hard Work and Commitment, how Sandra Simone can teach us about Integrity and Courage, and how Don Bustos lives out the values of Cooperation and Consensus. We’re so glad we found this incredible resource and can’t wait to read more! Thank you, Natasha Bowens, for sharing all this wisdom!!”

“What a book! Dive into the stories and photographs Natasha Bowens shares in these pages and you come up for air with a profound appreciation for the diversity of people planting the seeds and harvesting the foods to keep alive cultural traditions and nourish communities around the country. Anyone who eats should read this book: You will come to the table with new appreciation for the intersections between race and food that so often go unsaid and undocumented. Kudos to Bowens for creating this powerful and important book.” Anna Lappé, author, Diet for a Hot Planet and Hope’s Edge

“Natasha Bowens, through her compelling stories and powerful images of a rainbow of farmers, reminds us that the industrialization of our food system and the oppression of our people — two sides of the same coin — will, if not confronted, sow the seeds of our own destruction.” Mark Winne, author, Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty

“The Color of Food captures the heart and souls of farmers of color… farmers that are frequently forgotten as the stories of agriculture in our country are told. Through the lens of a camera we step into the cultural history of our foods and the beautiful and proud people that grow them”. Cynthia Hayes, executive director, Southeastern African American Farmers Organic Network

“True to her ancestral ties, Natasha brings forth the hope of a new generation of young people of color fixed on recapturing the energy, history and tradition of farming. The power of storytelling is etched in each farmer’s tale of courage and resiliency as they look at farming, not as oppressive, but as a vibrant celebration of who they are. The Color of Food makes the ancestors rise up in triumph!” Karen Washington, farmer, activist, and cofounder, Black Urban Growers

“It is impossible to understand food in America without digging deeply into “race,” class and culture. People’s perceptions are their realities, and The Color of Food contributes to changing our reality by changing our perception of the hands, hearts and faces in the food movement.” -Malik Yakini, executive director, Detroit Black Community Food Security Network

“Natasha Bowens brings us two critical reminders: the potential and pitfalls of “a movement” in any singular form; and the importance of vision and determination in doing truly groundbreaking research. The Color of Food represents the best kind of research―inspired and independent, a project of deep listening and unbounded sharing. Our task is to cultivate the questions she scatters, in a rich and colorful light.” Philip Ackerman-Leist, author, Rebuilding the Foodshed and director of the Masters in Sustainable Food Systems, Green Mountain College

“The food movement has woken the world to joy of food, but the beauty of the people who grow it is too often hidden. That’s why Brown Girl Farming is so gorgeous. This is a book that celebrates the food movement leaders to whom I’ve been honored to be able to turn for wisdom. To read Natasha Bowen’s journey through North America is to draw from the rich, exquisite and too often hidden work of people of color in reinventing the modern food system. From First Nation to immigration, there isn’t a topic on which Bowen’s curiosity doesn’t latch, nor her camera capture. It’s a must-share book for anyone who holds hope in their hearts about the future of food.” Raj Patel, Author of Stuffed and Starved

“I co-facilitate a “Hunger Banquet.” This year we are choosing Natasha Bowen’s book as our focus. Bowens has so much to say! (By the way, at a Hunger Banquet, audience members are randomly chosen to be rich, middle income or poor. The rich get a great banquet, the middle income get an ok meal, the poor get a handful of rice and some water. Then we talk!) Bowen’s book brings to life the issue of food justice. I especially appreciate her section called “Generation Rising” about young farmers. Our Hunger Banquet audience is full of millennials who will be inspired by these stories. The stories of “the elders” are very moving too. I liked the one about the migrant mom who left her employer because of her family’s exposure to pesticides. Her son developed leukemia. When she signed up for a FARM INCUBATOR project she started living a better life. I recommend this book to anyone who has ever puttered around in soil or sunk teeth into a fresh picked tomato. I’m buying several copies to give as gifts.” Patricia Ruppert

“The Color of Food is a vibrant, gorgeous looking book of stories told by farmers of color who are changing the landscape of farming and homesteading all over the world. I loved reading about the creativity and resilience of farmers of color as they work in community to fight exploitation, marginalization and bring good food to families and communities of color. I was amazed and heartened by the deep political organizing that is being done against corporate greed and that farmers and communities are finally being recognized as critical players as we continue to learn about race and class and culture and our food source. Thank you Edelweiss for giving me the opportunity to review this book for an honest opinion.” Karen Rachel