The spring semester has ended. Grades are in, many students are taking a break from studying and Colorado State University employees are thinking about taking some of that accumulated annual leave to decompress after a hectic school year.
What a perfect time for everyone to pick up this year’s RamsRead book: The Color of Food: Stories of Race, Resilience and Farming by Natasha Bowens.
CSU President Joyce McConnell launched the all-CSU RamsRead initiative last year with the intent to bring all members of the CSU community together – literally on the same page – for common conversation about an important and timely topic. Community members are encouraged to read the book this summer and participate in events, lectures and related discussions that will be scheduled for the fall.
In The Color of Food, Bowens recounts stories of more than 75 North American farmers of color. She weaves together her interviews and photographs of them to tell the often forgotten and misunderstood history of agriculture for people of color, their rich culture and the agrarian identities and the incredible challenges they face in modern farming.
Bowens describes her book as a study of the critical issues that lie at the intersection of race and food.
“When I joined the food and agricultural movement as a woman of color, I was immediately struck by the glaring racial disparities that live, not only in the food system regarding food access and health, but in the good food movement itself,” she wrote in an article for Civil Eats, a nonprofit news source that examines the American food system. “I could see that the face of the movement was not representing communities of color, the very same communities most heavily impacted by a broken food system. I felt like these voices were missing in the discussions about organic farming, rural homesteading, and even food justice and the urban farming projects that were sprouting up across the nation.”
Continuing critical conversations
Ryan Barone, assistant vice president for student success and a member of the RamsRead committee, said the book selection encourages the continuation of critical conversations related to race, equity and justice among CSU community members.
Natasha Bowens is an author, farmer, and political activist whose advocacy focuses on food sovereignty and social issues. As a young biracial woman in today’s agricultural movement, she is dedicated to honoring, preserving and amplifying the stories of Black, Native, Asian and Latino farmers and food activists.
Her multimedia project The Color of Food evolved from her work exploring the intersection of race and agriculture for Grist magazine, and from her blog Brown.Girl.Farming, where she writes about issues related to racial inequality, food sovereignty, and resilience. Her work has garnered her national media attention, and she has been featured on CNN, The Atlantic, and Colorlines.
“Nuancing conversations around food justice is an essential operationalization of our University mission,” he said. “The Color of Food, through brilliant narratives and compelling images, provides a captivating foundation from which to build the critical and complicated conversations needed to implement informed strategies to get upstream and unroot institutionalized oppression evident in contemporary food systems.”
Ryan Claycomb, professor of English and also a member of the RamsRead committee, calls each profile in the book an invitation for the CSU community to discuss, listen and critically engage around the topics of land, food, access and resources.
“Bowens is a wonderful guide for readers to meet farmers of many identities and from many places around the country,” he said. “Through her photography, her interviews with the people she meets, and her own engaging voice, she offers us many ways to understand the rich and hard-fought connections to the land that emerge from these oral histories.”
RamsRead is planned and guided by three CSU educators, collectively known as the tri-chairs: Albert Bimper, Jr., an associate professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and senior associate athletic director for diversity and inclusion; Ryan Barone, assistant vice president for student success; and Ryan Claycomb, professor of English, who led the Campus Read program for his previous institution before joining the CSU faculty. They have convened a diverse working group of nearly 20 others from across the University to plan events and facilitate discussions this fall.
A RamsRead facilitation guide will assist faculty, staff and students have conversations related to the social, agriculture, equity and inclusion topics raised in the book, by providing educational suggestions, ideas and strategies. The campus community is invited to provide contributions to the guide. Those interested in submitting can do so by visiting the Guide Repository through June 18.
E-version and hard copy versions of The Color of Food are available through the CSU Libraries. The book will also be available for discounted purchase at the CSU Bookstore in the Lory Student Center in the fall.