The Fruits of Our Labor, A Future We Can Savor: A Black Farmer’s Guide to Better Dieting and Nutrition

Healthy eating and dieting isn't always easy. So, we made this compact mini-guide with some tips to help.

As much as it is good for you, living and eating healthy aren’t always the easiest or cheapest things to do. Luckily, The Demo Tape has you covered (AGAIN!) in this special article where we investigate and deconstruct the intricacies of how to start living and eating more healthy (even if you have not had too much prior experience) maintain this new lifestyle to be the healthiest you that you can possibly be.

In the Fall of 2016, in my first apartment living on my own, a realization came to me one morning after weeks of eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches/ramen noodles. This one morning I got sick to the point where I felt like I was grinding extra close up against death herself as the club went up on a Tuesday. After recovering from my bedridden status, I swore to myself that I would never make unhealthy eating habits again that would endanger my life like that if I could help it.

My drastic transition to becoming vegan was not bad after transferring to Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD as an exchange student the following semester. Fortunately, Morgan had options I needed and that I was comfortable with for my new vegan lifestyle. I ate fruits, salads, wraps and anything without meat, dairy or anything else that came from animals. During my time at Morgan with my vegan diet, my perception, memory and eyesight got notably better, and my body began to tone itself out even with minimal exercise. I looked good and more importantly, felt good.

Unfortunately, as I moved off of Morgan’s vegan friendly safe haven, my vegan lifestyle was cut short. As a colleague noted to me once, sometimes you have to be able to AFFORD a healthy diet. The cheap, quick fixes for hunger are typically not good for you in the long run or at all for that matter. Shopping for the healthy materials that you need can rack up more than you realize until the point where you are blowing all your green just to get a hand full of it. Family and the environment you live in may not support your new lifestyle, as the home-cooked fixings become tempting when you are starving to eat and can’t afford the healthy things you want. Truly, it’s a hard knock life.

Regardless, after doing my research and delving into the lifestyle myself as well as watching documentaries and even hearing the legend of Dr.Sebi, I began to realize that individuals of this generation are waking up more to the information about healthy eating. Yes, that’s right, the millennials are killing the life-shortening-fast-food-and-unhealthy-eating industry as well. I caught up with two individuals, who also help to exemplify Black Girl Magic in its most wonderful forms, who both gave me (and consequently you by reading the this) the real dealio on healthy eating and nutrition in exclusive interviews.

The first individual that I caught up in public with was Hip Hop Cleopatra, otherwise known as Britt for the sake of this interview. Candidly, on her Instagram platform and personal website, Britt openly shares he story about healthy dieting and how much weight she lost by embracing her new lifestyle. In her own words, Britt had to “unlearn” how to eat. Further building upon my pre-research, Britt talked about the concept of food deserts: destitute, far off from grocery store living areas for individuals (mostly people of color) who are unable to get to these stores in an easy fashion. Catching up with Hip Hop Cleopatra further affirmed the thought that healthy eating, although a choice, is NOT a choice for individuals whose socioeconomic statuses prevent them from getting healthier. Fortunately, the other exclusive interview provided perspective on how to fix these frustratingly difficult living conditions.

Enter Kirsten, as she goes by for the sake of this interview. As a 2015 graduate of Notre Dame of Maryland University with a Bachelors of Science in Physics, Kirsten is also currently the Chief Design Officer of Think About It LLC, a successful minority owned start-up business taking the tutoring field of Maryland and beyond by storm. In her spare time, Kirsten is also an immensely talked and brilliant visual artist, illustrating jobs for commission, creating pictures for books, logos, graphic designs and more with her meticulous and soul-hitting art. (Now that’s what I call Black Girl Magic and versatility.)

But, with all of these varied skill sets and academic background, how did Kirsten get into farming/gardening to better take of herself, especially when being a farmer isn’t a habitual occupation and hobby attributed to Black people? I asked her this question and Kirsten gave a very candid, illuminating answer. Kirsten, while enrolled in college, learned how to garden due to a dark wave of anxiety and depression in her last few months in Notre Dame, hitting her low as she has never hit before, as self-described. Delving into the research of healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle, Kirsten began to see how mental and physical health are connected. The foods you are eating affect how one feels in more ways than one.

I then proceeded to ask Kirsten that, as a Black Farmer, what are the things that she does on a daily/weekly basis and how does she balance that with the other details of very busy and hard-working lifestyle. Kirsten laughed and was down with the title of a “Black Farmer.” She also jokingly stated that even though she would classify herself as that, being a Black Farmer is more than a title with overalls and the other stereotypes. She then proceeded to show me to her garden and areas of work, in which I saw in the back section of her living residence (not even a super-abundant amount of grass mind you, but just enough) and Kirsten’s homegrown strawberries, raspberries, plants and vegetables were fully ripe and ready to eat/mix into meals.

I myself have never seen another Black person seriously into farming, and it inspired me seeing how simple it was to begin, further proving how representation is always important. Kirsten told me her schedule on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. At the beginning of each month, or whenever she gets new materials, she “sets up” plants for that month including placing the plants and foods to be grown in the proper sunlight, soil, fertilizer, pot, and the specific space that each of these foods respectively need. She fertilizes occasionally, and waters her plants and growing foods every day, which only takes about up about 10-15 minutes of her schedule. The discipline gotta be nuts right? It’s not as strict as one would think, Kirsten illuminated. Even though it takes rather sagacious detail and discernment at points, Kirsten described gardening as with training a new pet. Once you train the pet for a certain amount of time, it becomes easier to manage; the same she says can be applied to the way she gardens her plants. It is so interwoven into her schedule now, that Kirsten’s middle name just might be “Balance.”

Based on Hip Hop Cleopatra’s word on the matter, I wanted to get a second opinion from Kirsten by asking her about her honest comments about health and nutrition in low-income and destitute communities for POC (people of color), especially Black people. Getting historical with the diction, Kirsten stated off first and foremost that the masses of Black people are displaced in a place that wasn’t meant for them; lack of abundance in healthy nourishment is included in this displace as well. Kirsten went further on to state that we as Black people aren’t taught to maintain in many avenues, or otherwise not even given the proper resources to do such (i.e the bare minimum food teaching of Home Ed in grade school, the tragedy of Flint Michigan, and food deserts in abundance for POC all across the U.S) . “If they want us to go, they’ll make it easy for it,” Kirsten ominously, but truthfully, concludes in her brief word about the subject.

So, how does one start this journey, especially for those individuals reading this article who want to start but do not know how? Kirsten graciously gave answers for both instances of being healthier with dieting and those who want to start gardening/growing their own foods.

In regards to being healthier with dieting, Kirsten suggested to look up recipes and indulge in free or relatively cheap media that can inform you about the specific goals you are trying to accomplish. Most importantly, Kirsten stated that you have to “[Find] a reason to keep going even when it gets tough.” You have to a fire in your belly, and have the ability to “get yourself angry” about the health disparities that concern you and affect those around you. Likely, Kirsten went down this same path, as she was able to find out about the food industry in the United States, GMOs, the tale of Dr.Sebi, and even helping herself quell her own anxiety and depression.

In regards to gardening/growing your own foods, Kirsten first stated to buy a plant or two and understand that 9 times out 10 that you WILL kill them because of no prior experience. You essentially have to get your feet in the water for this one, or rather, the roots in the right soil. Kirsten really emphasized that when you do end up buying a plant, make sure you Google “care tips” for that specific plant. And, as directly relating to Kirsten’s following point on the matter, you can go about your gardening like how Chance did on Ultralight Beam: “I’m just having fun with it!” With growing food, Kirsten stated, try to experiment but get the things you look like you would eat. (A true point because you will never catch me growing the atrocity known as cauliflower). Lastly, grow something that is good for your AREA and climate. Like, are you really gonna try to grow pineapples and exotic melons in your place in West Side Baltimore?

Before I left her working space, Kirsten gave some good parting words of wisdom regarding some of the overarching themes about getting better, health wise.

  1. If you want to make yourself healthy, you have to do the research for yourself.
  2. Essentially, everyone’s body is unique, along with their digestive system and body structures. What’s healthy for someone else, may not be healthy for your body in some respects. Research and get the foods that taste well to you, but watch out for the ones that will counter react to your body too much.
  3. Learn from the elders and others in the field; they may be able to help you more than books can.
  4. The medicine profit system is ridiculous, and seeing how natural medicines work just as well should give you motivation about how using the earth’s own direct resources can help you more than you know.

Hip Hop Cleopatra and Kirsten gave wonderful gems of advice, but it’s up to you today how you will cash them out for smooth sailing health-wise. Then, you will definitely reap and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

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