Where do you get your food? Many of the foods people enjoy in industrialized countries come from all over the world, including tropical rainforests.
Some foods, like cacao beans or coffee, can be grown in harmony with the natural rainforest, but others, like cattle for beef, are farmed in ways that harm the environment.
This harm comes in many forms. When large areas of forest are burned to make room for cattle farms, there are fewer trees to absorb carbon dioxide, and fewer roots to prevent erosion of the soil. Soil and other pollutants wash into nearby rivers and streams, making the water potentially dangerous for wildlife and people. People who are passionate about protecting the people, plants, and animals of the rainforest from harmful farming practices can advocate for laws to hold large companies accountable for the damage they cause and can work together to make sustainable alternatives accessible for everyone.
Growing food, and foraging for natural foods in the area where you live, are two low-cost ways to become less reliant on large, global food corporations.
It can be liberating to supply your own food, but historical disenfranchisement of Black folx, Indigenous nations, and other People of Color (BIPOC communities) have left many people without knowledge of cultural agriculture or foraging practices. Today, some BIPOC-owned and operated farms are seeking to educate others about how to grow food using many of the techniques their ancestors used. It is a way to reclaim culture and a way to reduce how much food is bought from large global corporations. It is also a way for people living in neighborhoods with less access to fresh produce can eat healthy food without having to travel far to the store.
There are many teaching farms, but one BIPOC-run teaching farm that many people in the food justice movement look to as a leader is Soul Fire Farm in New York. They work to reconnect BIPOC farmers and community members with their cultures by teaching African-Indigenous wisdom, technology, and regenerative farming practices.
Meanwhile, other sustainable leaders, like Alexis Nikole (known on Tik Tok and Instagram as @blackforager), are teaching how to safely gather wild foods. She mentioned in an interview that she had been teaching people to forage through social media for a while, but the COVID-19 pandemic brought her an influx of new followers as people looked for ways to avoid grocery stores, save money, and become more self-sufficient.
She teaches followers how to identify edible plants, and prepare them in recipes. She also discusses Black history in relation to foraging - how it was critical to the survival of enslaved people, and how after emancipation, new laws were created to restrict foraging on private land. For Alexis, foraging has become a source of joy, healing, and pride. If you are interested in learning how to forage in your area, check out Alexis's content or see PlantSnap's "7 Rules for Foraging for Wild Foods" to learn how to safely and legally forage where you live.
There are many ways to be a steward of the rainforest. Sometimes, solutions to global conservation challenges are - quite literally - in our own backyard.
Check out this video to see how our Education Coordinator gardens and forages in the St. Louis area on a very limited budget.
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