In this episode, I speak with Organic Master Gardener, social change leader, aspiring rural farmer, a cook, a nurturer, an educator and advocate, Angel Beyde. We talk about the struggles and incredible resilience of Black farmers, the importance of land ownership for farming with equity, intergenerational trauma experienced by the BIPOC community, and non-racialized folks taking responsibility to work for racial justice.
We talk about how our stories from our childhood are a blueprint that shapes many of the passions and visions we have for ourselves in our adult years. We connect on her story that led Angel to become a Black-Mixed race farmer in her forties and the challenges that she is facing in trying to purchase land.
We talk about the importance of compassion in Calling In vs Calling Out, of social change through bridge-building, and the courage to overcome and heal from white fragility. We share about the need for willingness to go through discomfort as we’re addressing and uprooting racism that is so embedded in our culture that it's most of the time, invisible. I continue to reflect on Angel's quote,
"If your biggest fear is to be uncomfortable, but my biggest fear is to be killed by the police, then maybe it's worth it to be uncomfortable to learn how to change society.”
Overall, in the end, this is a conversation about what it takes to keep staying the course when all external forces are saying 'no'. It's about the importance of nurturing connection with an open heart. To see the possibility in the impossible. It's about how to stay creative and resilient in the face of adversity.
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Angel Beyde is a Black/mixed-race grower of food and flowers. An Organic Master Gardener, educator and facilitator, Angel has worked in Urban Ag, eco-landscaping and non-profits for many years. She is passionate about regenerative growing practices as key to food sovereignty and community abundance. Angel and her husband Raph are currently looking for rural O
Ami: Hi, Angel, thank you so much for joining me today.
Angel: My pleasure.
Ami: It's great to have you on. You know, in preparing for this conversation, I was really reflecting on the best way to learn more about who you are because I find your story to be quite an interesting, fascinating story. And I would love it if you would be able to tell me a bit about your story starting from the beginning.
Angel: Well, seeing as I'm forty-nine, it's a long story, but I'll try to give the most exciting highlights. Yes. My name is Angel Beyda. I am, I guess. Yeah, I'm a lot of things. I'm an organic master gardener, a leader of social enterprise. I am an aspiring rural farmer. If we can find land, talk about a bit more about that later. I'm a cook. I'm a nurturer. I'm an Auntie. So, yeah, lots of lots of different facets. I was born in Amsterdam, Holland in the early seventies and my mom is Canadian. My father is from Surinam, South America, but grew up in Aruba. And yeah, so I'm mixed race. I grew up with my mom mainly in Montreal actually. We came to Montreal when I was a toddler and that's where I started to really, I guess, start this journey into feeding people. When I was very young, my mum was a single mum and full-time nurse and chuff and worked seven days a week. So yeah, my earliest memory is around age four are starting to cook. So my mum was of the belief that if you show an aptitude for something and want to do it, well, why not do it? And she didn't really have that. Yeah, that maybe more contemporary nervousness around kids with knives and stoves and that kind of thing. So I was given my little knife to use and had a little stool that I could climb up to the stove or counter with.
Angel: And I started cooking and I never looked back. It became immediately my solace as an only child in the inner city mixed race with a mum who worked a lot, I really craved connection. And even just cooking for myself, my mom gave me a lot of comfort, joy, confidence and sense of purpose, so I made mom's lunches, I prepared shopping lists. I really started doing groceries. Soon after that, I guess maybe a year later, it was the 70s in Montreal. So a kid could walk 20 minutes to the grocery store with a little list. And then I made friends with the butcher. I couldn't see above the counter, so I would just call up to "Monsieur" . I forget what his name was. I think it was something like Charlebois and he just loved me, this little kid with an afro and crooked teeth. And I would say I would like the very best roast beast because that's what I thought it was called. But for the lowest price, please. So, yeah, there was no grass-fed or anything like that in those days, but it was still good quality stuff. And I think I got a lot of very good deals. I think there was a lot of five-year-old shopping even in the early 70s. So, yeah, that's kind of how I started with cooking for my mom, doing the groceries and then quickly really getting into houseplants.
Angel: And I remember one of my earliest games was I'd cook a lot of food and like I would bake brownies or cake or something, and then I would line up the house plants. And I remember we had this huge asparagus fern. She was the lunch lady and she would be in charge. And then I'd line up all the other plants. I just I wanted community So African violets and the Dum Cane plant. And, you know, the Stalwart 70s plants look very plain, like Mother-In-Law's Tongue and have them all lined up and they'd be the kids and the lunch lady would dish out the food. I would eat it. And it was really kind of the blueprint of how the rest of my life went, which was always looking for opportunities to cook, nurture, feed and connect. So. Yeah, as a teenager, I really started getting into figuring out where my food came from. So I was vegetarian for a long time because I would watch these documentaries on PBS about, yeah, slaughterhouses, factory farms. And I was kind of like a little Lisa Simpson. It really flipped me out. So I was vegetarian for quite a while. And then on point in my twenties, I realized I was really hypoglycemic and living on tofu and rice cakes was really messing with my blood sugar and making me very irritable, tired and spacy.
Angel: So I started eating fish. And then at that point when I was in grad school, maybe my late twenties, it was easier to find organic meat. So I started eating chicken not very often, but just enough to kind of feel grounded. And in my twenties is when I started Balcony gardening. So I started growing my own herbs, lettuce, anything that was easy to grow on a balcony, pollinator flowers. I was pretty obsessed with attracting butterflies to my little city balcony's. So every time I had a little more space and a little more awareness, I kind of went a little further in my food plants and feeding people journey . I remember going to dinner parties in my twenties and showing up with like a full dish and like a dessert and it sort of brought chips. But it really struck me how many people didn't have the skills to nourish themselves or each other and also how immensely grateful people were to eat something that was home cooked with love, sometimes topped with herbs. I'd grown on my own balcony So making bruschetta and topping it with basil that I grew and people just being so stunned and delighted. And I thought, this seems like really entry level Life-Skills, feed yourself, but we don't have that. So that kind of lit a spark in me that didn't get to fully express itself for another 20 years, but it really was there like people need this.
Angel: They need to know where their food comes from. They need to know how to prepare it, and we need to share it with each other. So I went through the next probably about 15 years or so. I was running a communications company and spending all my time from the computer and then taking care of my plants in all my free time and gardening on balconies, finding any excuse to help people with their gardens. But being really unhappy in my career and, you know, I was very good at editing. That was the main thing I did. Senior project management editing mainly in textbooks. So educational materials and translation, and I really hated it. It was very disembodied and I get very anxious when I do a lot of disembodied work. I really need the ground. I need physical things to interact with. So I finally had gone on a meditation retreat in Malaysia. I do a form of Qigong. It's similar to Tai Chi and it's like for relaxation and wellness. There's no like martial arts application. And this was really helping me a lot with stress and anxiety and depression. It really kind of cured them for me. So I had gone to meet the founder of this school of of of not Tai Chi Qigong, and he said to me at the end of the retreat and it was very nice.
Angel: He's very down to earth. He's a farmer, in fact. So that was really nice. He's an elderly fruit farmer in Malaysia. And he said to me, you know, you're very stressed about your work and I see you want to make some changes. You've talked about said you can have anything you want. You just have to work for it. And that really stuck with me when I came home, I thought, OK, I've been unhappy so long in my career, and while I do well in terms of the results, A, it doesn't make me happy. B, it's not like I'm making a ton of money so I could save for some other great project and see, I'm getting older. So I just typed into Google plants, food people, farm community, like literally those words. It's like an eight ball or something magic ball and it's spat out the Stop Community Food Centre and Food Share. So those two organizations happen to be very close to my little apartment, so that day, first of all, I put on hold a book about The Stop at my library, and then I walked over to Food And I wandered into the composting area and it was like, can I help?
Angel: And that's really how the next phase of my life just burst out of the chrysalis and I became a fanatic composter. I just loved it so much. It was January when it was minus 20, and I had just bought a big parka off Kajiji and really good winter boots. And I spent like a good, solid six weeks in the subzero temperatures, shoveling out their compost, alternating days with working the indoor from a composting system with an amazing coordinator named Orlando Gomez, who was an agronomist from Nicaragua who was re-establishing in Canada. So he taught me everything I know about them from vermi-composting or worm bins. So that's how I got into composting and via that soil health. And then I also ended up volunteering at the stop. I got the book. I read it in one day. I called them. I was like, I need to volunteer.
Angel: So I started volunteering at the Stop as well, so at Food Share, I was doing composting. I was getting stamps every week for my hours and you got a certain amount of stamps, you got an organic food box. So it was also feeding us. And then at The Stop, I also got stamps. So it was great because we were food insecure at the time, which was very tough. And we both were both my husband and I was going through some challenges and some health issues. So it really put my life back together.
And yeah, I really feel like that was I was summer of twenty fifteen and that's when everything really aligned and I was like I want to farm. And I bought the Market Gardeners Handbook Jean-Martin Fortier the you know, the little acreage, I'm familiar. Yeah, well, acreage market garden rock star. And I was reading it cover to cover, and at one point my husband is like, what's this book you're reading every night? And so I explained what it was. And I said, well, to be honest, I really want to start a farm. Do you want to start a farm? And he literally didn't hesitate. He's like, yes. He's a translator, and we had never talked about this before. But this kind of came out of left-wing and he didn't blink. He's like, yes. So it's been six years that we've been planning this dream good fortune farmstead, and we started looking for land in earnest last year, So from my which is when
Ami: I met you, which is of right.
Angel: Yeah. When I started consulting with The EFAO
Ami: The EFAO stands for the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario.
Angel: Yeah. So. And it's an amazing organization. So I went through a lot of different jobs at the stop were all contracts because unfortunately that's the nature of a lot of non-profit work. There is very little secure employment, especially urban. So my position ended, the contract ended, and they didn't renew it. So then I was really like, what the hell am I going to do now? That was my magic place I really loved. It was the two years I was there and I ended up working for an ecological landscaping company that was a social enterprise. And I ended up becoming the business manager very quickly. And yeah, really learning about running a business that was partially nonprofit but also partially for profit So a social enterprise.
Angel: And we trained and employed people with mental health issues, addiction and street involvement. my favourite one where we did grow food. So that was really heaven for me, was a Native Child and Family Services. And it was great because one of the first things they said is, do you know what the three sisters are? I was like, do I? I do corn, beans and squash. I will grow that for you on your roof. Absolutely. So and it was demonstration garden. So I said, well, I don't have the medicine or the teachings to be doing that kind of planting and I don't know if it's culturally appropriate.
Angel: And the person said, what I may ask, are you Caucasian because we're on the phone? He said, yes. I said, OK, so this is a demo garden. It's not actually there's nothing about ceremony or so. OK, so I said if there's anybody on the staff who's indigenous who would want to take part or if there's elders, we would love to have that connection and make it more culturally appropriate. But if you just need a demonstration garden, I'm your woman. But I learned a lot from the rest of the work as well, and really focusing on transforming urban downtown scrappy little pockets into pollinator gardens with native perennial pollinator plants. And it was just really, really comforting thing to be doing in the middle of a busy city with sirens and dirt and broken glass and syringes that you can find in these spaces and nurturing them and tending them and bringing them back to life and adding mycorrhizal fungi to the soil, adding worm castings to the soil, adding effective microorganism innoculate.
Angel: So that soil that started off as gray hard and dust like at this point five years later, some of it really looks like cake batter, like dark chocolate cake batter. You can stick your hand in. And things like a rosebush, which was covered in black spot and spindly and sickly is now this gorgeous, resplendent deva covered in flowers. No sign of illness because the soil is really healthy and there is a relationship that's been restored between the microbial communities and the roots of the rosebush.
Ami: I love so much of what you're talking Like who you are to me is is the definition of connection. You really build those connections not just with people using what you love the most, but just food and and that opportunity, but also with the soil, you're building connections and allowing something that was once not so alive to be alive and to thrive. And I find that to be just such a beautiful thing about you.Ami: You know, one of the things that you speak openly about is the challenges that are facing BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) farmers. They can be quite profound. Could you tell me a little bit more about this? Your experience with that?
Angel: Well, I mean, in my family, my paternal grandfather, was the first person to be born free of slavery, so everybody before him was born enslaved. And it's such a recent thing. And that's why I word it the way I do, because if I ask any of my non-racialized friends, can you imagine like your grandparent is the first person in your family who was not enslaved, think of your grandparent like it's so recent. So I'm very much a present-day person and I'm very much an action person. As I was saying, I really like concrete things I can get my hands on and do things with So. You know, I empathize with people who question what is the big deal that happened hundreds of years ago and said, well, first of all, it wasn't hundreds is pretty recent. But also, you know, we're really here on the shoulders of our ancestors. And if your ancestors were face down in shackles, you're not standing very high. So accumulated wealth is intergenerational wealth. And where does intergenerational wealth comes from? Usually , you don't have to poke back very far in anyone's affluence to find slavery, to find exploitation. It's very hard to amass a great deal of wealth without exploiting anybody because if, for example, you have a company and you're paying everybody good wages, the top person is not going to be making a thousand times more than the bottom ones because you just wouldn't have enough money if you paid everybody.
Angel: So, you know, the challenges are some of them just so simple, like access to capital for land is a very basic issue. If somebody was living here for two hundred years, the same as white settlers, but they were brought here enslaved. We've never really caught up. And of course, there are affluent BIPOC people for sure, but the majority still retain that. How can I see it? That kind of negative starting point? You know, it's still behind . In my family, there are very few people on my dad's side who own their property. Black people are not that enthused when I talk about farming, they're like, why would you do that? Why would you stoop? Because for so many black folks, at least, it's still very much tied up with the trauma of slavery. And some people think, oh, well, you know, that was a long time ago. Well, you know, if nothing else, even if you don't look at how that still impacts current generations financially, there's also intergenerational trauma which they've proven scientifically in laboratory mice. For example, if you take a mouse and shock its feet, which is a horrible thing to do, but they did it and then exposed it to a scent, I think it was rose or something,
Angel: That mouse's great, great, great, great-grandchildren will not like the smell of roses because it's been associated with the shocking of the feet. So I definitely don't approve of harming animals in that way. But just to give that example of, you know, it's really in our genes and it's well documented that Holocaust survivors, descendants have a lot of the same fears that their great great grandparents had. It really kind of becomes part of our wiring. And, of course, you can overcome. You can heal. I do believe that there is so much possibility for freeing yourself from your past, but it's still something that you have to work with. So it kind of ties up your central processing unit in a way to do that extra work to free yourself. So the I think that there are like three fold challenges for BIPOC farming. And when I say by performance, I should also point out that it's a really huge range that we're talking about with black, indigenous people of color, like there's so many different experiences. You know, if you are a wealthy immigrant from Taiwan, are you really having the same experience as a farmer or would be farmer as a black person in Ontario who is third or fourth or fifth generation? Are you having the same experience as an indigenous person who is looking into growing food for their community like it's such a huge range of experiences, so I can't speak to what everyone goes through.
Angel: But I do know that in the Ecological Farmers Association group that I'm facilitating for BIPOC farmers, the number one thing that comes up is really secure access to land where there is an equity building, potential. So leasing land is a dime a dozen. You can lease anyone's land for a high price or a low price or a median price. There are lots of options. There's very few options to share land in any way that builds equity. And as we can see from the real estate crisis that's happening land is equity. You know, my partner and I just we're always looking for property to find for Our Good Fortune farmstead. It's been really grim and very challenging.
Angel: I know there are so many incredible farmers who don't have a succession plan and who have property but don't really see a way out besides selling to a developer for one, two, three or four or five million dollars, whatever the going rates are for the size of farm they have. And one of my fondest hopes is to be able to facilitate some conversations with, for example, some of the BIPOC aspiring farmers that I know or established, farmers who don't own land, who are renting, and to be able to connect with these farmers who I know would dearly wish to see their land kept under agriculture and not developed or turned into a quarry or just to connect us.
Angel: So finding a way to connect people who want to be on the land and people who want to keep their land and food production would be such a great thing. And that's one of my next things I hope to embark on, not just for myself, but because whenever I see a connection that should be made, I kind of want to make it. It's it's a strong instinct I have. just yeah, there's these conversations that are lacking and there's mutual support that's needed.
Ami: Well, I think it's the one thing that I find so profound about you, Angel, is your your willingness to have the conversations. Like I wanted to share my experience with you, where we work together at the same organization. And I give an invitation to do a book review with a book called Farming While Black by an author named Leah Penniman and I invited you to speak on a specific chapter in the chapter was called White People Uprooting Racism, and specifically about how a white-skinned people can be good allies of BIPAC people and how and and I ask you, why is that important? And you and you mentioned in the book review how you really struggled with my well-intentioned invitation in you struggled how to respond and you shared what your husband shared with you, which was it's not up to you as a black mixed race person to tell white people why or how to be allies. It's not your job either. They are on board. They want to just food system or not. You can point the direction to the path, but we all have to walk it ourselves. And this was so profound for me. And you gave me an opportunity to reflect on my request to you. To do white people's work and on really what was unfair in my request and asking you yourself who is marginalized and has been discriminated against to help me, the white person who has the privilege in asking me and how we can do better.
Ami: Please tell me how we can fix our problems and point us in the direction and the thing that was so wonderful and profound. But your response is what Leah Penninham speaks about is "Calling in". So rather than dismissing or shunning me or shaming me or shaming. Never. Never. Well, you just had a you had a beautiful way of of calling me in. And you pointed out you were willing to have the conversation publicly and allowed me to see parts of myself that were in my blind spot in a way that didn't leave me in a place of shame. And they left me in a place of openness and a willingness to really look at myself. And you invited me to change my behavior in such a loving way. And I feel like that is when I when I thought about want who am I going to interview next on my my podcast was like, that was such a disruption. It was a disruption, my way of thinking. And I'm so grateful for that. And you have this way about you that you're willing to be frank and you're willing to have the conversations and not shy away from the tough conversations and in doing it in a way that actually invites people onto your journey, you know, it's like here's a thing you might not be seeing. Tap, tap and come, come, let's go. Let's go have this conversation together. And it's just
Ami: Well, it's it's a real acknowledgment to, you know, the my appreciation and I think the definition of just what a disruptor is. And I was so excited to interview for this.
Angel: Oh, thank you. Yeah. I mean, it was it's always a lot of work to do that because you kind of have to process the response you're having. Like, I didn't understand why I was so stressed. I was like, this is a book I love and I highly recommend anyone listening to Look Up Farming while Black by the founder of Soul Fire Farm. Leah Penninham. She's an incredible writer, educator, farmer, activist, mom, just really all around, amazing human who's doing a lot to establish food sovereignty, really having an equity stake in the system for black folks. She works with incarcerated youth like she just really a good human. So I was like, why am I so stressed? And I couldn't do the book review and I couldn't do it. And, you know, I have a professional writing background. It's really not hard for me generally, but I have knots in my stomach. And then finally I was talking about with my husband, and that's when he who's white, he was like, I know what's holding you back. So that was great. And I actually, like, sobbed like for a good ten minutes. And I realized I was feeling so much grief and anxiety that it was up to me to tell white people why it was important for them to be allies, which is it's really a misunderstanding, So. I was also very appreciative of your response because, you know, as you felt it was, it was actually written with love and care and I really appreciated the effort of the EFAO and you and specifically asking me to do this because I'm a consultant. I'm not like a full team member in the sense of being a full time employee or even part time. I'm a consultant, so I really felt quite warmed and embraced by the organization. And I was like, oh, God, I don't want to to bite the hand that is inviting me in so that
Ami: At the same time the unwillingness to allow it to keep perpetuating.
Angel: Yeah, I do have that in me. I have a strong sense of of speaking the truth, a real talk, as I call it, or think real talk is really important. I think lack of real talk of sort of naming things and calling people in really perpetuates a lot of toxic structures and disconnection, because then we couldn't really be friends and we couldn't really be close comrades on the journey if I don't say what is really in my heart and I don't give us the opportunity to create something new, that's even better. Um, and yeah, we just don't have that kind of glow of like, oh yeah, there's my peeps, like I can trust, like, you know, Ami's going to tell me Angel's going to tell me we're good. Um, I'm also a person who's very nervous if I don't know, like what people are thinking. And I prefer to just be really transparent myself so that I can lay that groundwork for frankness in her care.
Ami: Because really, that's it. That's at the foundation of what connection is getting ready for this conversation. I asked you, like, what would what would make this conversation a home run? And we both agree, like for us to be able to have a connection. And I think sometimes it takes having frank uncomfortable, hard conversations to lay the groundwork to be able to and and not. Oh, it's not that this was an uncomfortable, hard conversation before. Yeah. I had to be with some stuff in that. And it was it was an amazing opportunity. And you gave me an opportunity to see something of myself because I was willing to look like something we talked about so much and being white. And, you know, we talk about our white fragility and the, um, the unwillingness to look because we're so uncomfortable with, like, looking. And I feel like that just perpetuates it and perpetuates racism and all of the problems that we're just we have an unwillingness to look because we can't be with the shame and the uncomfortableness of making a mistake.
Angel: Yeah. And then some of them are inherited mistakes, but by not looking at them, they actually perpetuate .
Angel: So it doesn't you know, we all started here in the middle of the story. I saw a great interview with an actor. Um, I'm forgetting his name. I'm terrible with celebrity names. But he is a British black actor and he was being interviewed about racism, I think. He gave an analogy of an elderly woman who gets robbed, so she wakes up and she realizes somebody has been there, she's been robbed, her stuff is gone. She's really upset. She calls the police. They come and she's explaining what happened and probably telling it wrong. But I'm sure I'm going to get the gist of it. And they're. They're concerned, they're looking around, but they're like, well, Mabel, say her name is Mabel So right here with the windows open, the stuff is gone. All of these things have happened. Well. Why do you think you've been robbed? And she's baffled, and so the celebrity who's telling the story is like, so you can draw a few conclusions from that, either the police officers are not good at their jobs. They don't know what they're supposed to be doing or else maybe they don't want to catch the person who did the robbery. Right. And he said and Mabel has a few choices, but one of them could be, well, screw it.
Angel: Police are not going to help me. I'll call up my grandsons and my nephews, and we're going to go out. We're going to find out who took my stuff and we're going to get it back. It's like, well, that's what I want. I want to get my stuff back is like and if you ask me why was I robbed? Like, I don't know. It's like racism. He's like I was born in nineteen eighty-two. I just got here. This started well before me. I don't know why racism happens. I don't understand. He's like, I'm trying to educate myself for my own benefit and my own advancement in life. He's like, but I certainly can't explain to a white person about racism because it's not my problem. I'm not the one who committed the crime. I didn't rob my own stuff. Yeah, I just I thought that was just such a great in a nutshell how he told it very long in a nutshell about why it's such a burden to want people of colour to explain about racism and to help non-racialized people. You learn to not be racist.
Ami: You to hold the emotional labour. Yeah. To do our emotional labour work for us.
Angel: Yeah. And I and I definitely had, like, non racialized friends say, yeah, but don't abandon me like I need help. And I'm like, but you're looking to the wrong person.
Angel: There are people who do this for a living or volunteer or on social media. So there are so many places. And they said and I find one of the most harmful things we can have in life is learned helplessness, know there's a lot of popular, uh, what would you call it kind of like? You know, the kind of anecdotes about like the gender stereotypes of like the husband who goes to the grocery store and buys all the wrong things, and then when he comes home and the wife is like, "oh, my God, this is terrible, I'll do the shopping myself". And he's like, "yes", that kind of stereotype. But just to illustrate, I'm not down with the gender stereotypes at all, but just to illustrate the idea of the learned helplessness, like if I keep feigning incompetence, I'll never have to do the work.
Ami: Yeah, and it's enabling, really.
Angel: Yes, it is. And it's like, well, maybe you have to fail quite a bit
Ami: And be uncomfortable. I think that's the thing that I think we as white people need to be able to understand. You know, it's we have to be willing to be uncomfortable because it's going to be uncomfortable sometimes. And that's also OK, too. You know,
Angel: If you look at what a butterfly goes through, that is damned uncomfortable.
Angel: Like you completely sew yourself into a mummy case. You liquefy all of your organs and your structures. You completely mutate into a whole new thing, and then you have to rip your way out of your coffin. That is uncomfortable. But boy, is the result glorious.
Angel: Compost, right, is just decay. Death, stink heat, but transforms into gold. So I think that also having less fear of discomfort and focusing more on. What you can build if you're willing to go through that.
Angel: I think that that's what we need to do for each other is really recognize that, um, we're humans. We need each other. We need that connection. We need to also take responsibility for our own evolution as people. Um, and also keeping the bigger picture when you are addressing a crisis situation, like, for example, you know, the lives of black people in North America. Um. It's really dire and sometimes, you know, what I try to point out is that, you know, if your biggest fear is to be uncomfortable, but my biggest fear is to be killed by the police, then maybe it's worth it to be uncomfortable to learn how to change society. So it's safer.
Angel: Like, I. I would be terrified to be stopped by the police, and I'm real goody two shoes and I'm a middle-aged lady and I'm light-skinned black. So, you know, I'm really probably never going to get stopped by police. But darker members, darker skinned members of my family have been and have been harmed, physically harmed by the police, like completely innocent, like honor roll kids. And they're just lucky we don't live in a place with guns because for sure they would have been killed. Just as the verdict for George Floyd's murder was being read. At the same time, a 15-year-old girl was shot four times in the chest for calling the police for help because she was being attacked.
Angel: It's really the stakes are so high that I feel, you know, it's kind of like if you are a parent and you have kids, you'll go through so much discomfort for the well-being of your kids. You know, it's really a profound instinct. And I think if we can expand that relational sense to our wider community where you see everyone is your family. It gives you back so much if you get so much joy, like as much as raising humans is really exhausting and difficult and challenging and makes you tear your hair out if your hair doesn't just fall out, gives you wrinkles. Right. But it also brings you such profound joy and sense of accomplishment, like, hey, I'm keeping this human alive and they're learning and changing and surprising me and doing things I didn't expect and breaking my heart and putting it back together again in a better configuration. I think if I mean that, maybe that's just like the kind of Pollyanna and me. But I, I hope for people that we can keep expanding our sense of family and expanding that sense of who we're willing to grow for. Um, no, I don't know if that's possible, but I like to think it is.
Ami: Well, I think that the one great thing about you, Angel, is that you really hold the possibility to the forefront, you know, possibility, something that seems to be to drive you and not giving up.
Angel: Yeah, don't give up, man. I just got a great quote from someone I really respect the other day. I'm just saying, yeah, like this third lockdown, like the third wave. I'm just struggling, feeling at my wit's end and looking for the farm and being outbid on tiny places. And everything is just really quite grim. And person sent me in this quote by when it's ascribed to Winston Churchill, but it's not proven that he said it. But it's something like "success is built on going from failure to failure with undiminished enthusiasm". Hmm. So, you know, I really see that as a key to being able to fall down and pick yourself back up again and , yeah, take the lesson from what you learned and keep growing. Yeah, that's what I would say. Keep growing.
Ami: Well, thank you for that. That's to really. That's very helpful. And I am I'm wondering just kind of like in that theme of failure or the opportunity to keep learning. I'm wondering from you, what's one of the biggest barriers to yourself into living into the things that light up, you know, be more in alignment with the things that you care about, your meaning or your purpose?
Angel: It's really for us, it's the access to land where we're just so ready, you know? And it's been six years that we've been preparing. We had a lot of things that we needed to take care of before we could even start looking for land, which was last year, sadly, in the pandemic.
Angel: So we had a lot of family care that we were doing. And then it was really just last year where I was like, OK, I have a super demanding nonprofit job. We've done a lot of family care. I am in my late forties now. I need to take the next step and I really want to get the farm going. And my husband was like, Yeah, I'm total with you. We felt like everybody was stable enough that we could make that leap. And then we just kind of keep hitting this real estate wall of, you know, land access with an equity building potential. So we've been offered for sure people who said, you know, you could come from in our land and pay low rent and you could live in a tent on the property. And that really breaks my heart because people who are in agriculture know how hard they're working and So to offer to someone else to live in a tent to do the same work is very it's very sad. It's a very tough commentary on where we've come in terms of disconnection from each other, from community building, from food. So, again, I would say that that is the biggest barrier right now is. Is partly an external barrier and then partly an internal barrier of just trying to be creative enough to find a way to do this without sacrificing our equity, building peace, because you're never going to make much money selling vegetables like Shania, who is an absolute rock star.
Angel: His money now is really coming more from his incredible teaching platforms. He has and speaking engagements and so on. If you do it at like he's like the NBA star of organic market gardening. And so if you think, well, OK, I'll be humble, I'm not an NBA all-star. If I'm just a regular pick-up neighbourhood game kind of person who put my heart into it and says I do half as well. Well, that's not very much money. So to then on top of it being paying rent somewhere and then at age 60, you're sixty-five, what do you have? You really don't have anything. You've been kind of breaking even and then you've paid rent and you have put all of your money into the soil itself and you can't carry that with you. So you've really improved someone else's property and then you have like nothing to retire on or something to sustain you in your old age, even like a homestead that you could grow your own food. And it's really the biggest barrier right now is finding a way to.
Angel: Yeah. Find a solution. I don't think it's going to happen on the open market battling freestyle for properties where the prices have risen a minimum of twenty-five thirty-forty fifty-one hundred percent in the past 18 months. I look every day like I'm on real letterboxing multiple times a day and I build community and reach out to people. I'm on chat groups. I'm part of the NFU, EFAO, Certified Naturally Grown like I'm part of a lot of communities and then I'm doing work with this farmer's network. Um, so yeah, I think. The internal barrier is partly the exhaustion of trying so many different avenues and not getting there yet, so it does demand just cultivating endless patience, but also determination to keep going and then just keeping trying to open my mind and my husband to trying to he's trying to keep his mind open so that when an opportunity comes that's not in the exact shape or size, but still does not sacrifice on the equity building in some way, that we would be able to see it and recognize it, even if it isn't the two-bedroom house with a little barn and 10 acres, which is the dream. And so, yeah, I would say that's kind of a summary of what we're trying to overcome and transform.
Ami: Yeah, well, what I'm hearing what you're saying is it's not just even about you finding your own piece of land, but it's really about changing what is happening right now. Yes, access to land, period, and
Angel: Keeping agricultural land and food production and then turning small plots of land into food production that perhaps were just lawn because there's so many we can the states that just languish. Right. People are there once a month or once every few weeks or a few times a season, and there's like five to ten acres of lawn. It's such an opportunity for our food security and our food sovereignty to be able to transform, you know, land that's not really doing much with this mono-crop of lawn and then also keeping agricultural land and agriculture. If there's any way I can help move the needle on that, I would be so honoured if that was part of my legacy that I helped with that in any tiny possible way. That's very important to me.
Ami: Angel, thank you so much for taking the time to share with me today. I really appreciate your openness and your willingness and your vulnerability and your courage, and I'm very grateful.
Angel: Oh, thank you so much, Ami. I'm truly honoured. I'm always startled when people think of me for these various types of conversations. It's nice to hear reflected back the care and the love that I feel for you, for all the folks who are farming and farming adjacent , who I've been building relationships , I'm really grateful. So thank you so much for your thoughtfulness and for starting this amazing project.
Ami: Thank you.