In her feature-length documentary “Rise, Root, Revolution!” filmmaker and multimedia journalist Kate Walker tells the story of Rise & Root Farm in Chester, New York, and the four women co-founders who are reclaiming the power of farming.
Founded in 2015, Rise & Root Farm is an interracial, intergenerational, collectively-owned farm led by Black, white, queer, and straight women. They strive to model a more just and representative model of farming while providing abundant and nutritious food for their community.
In the film, farmers Karen Washington, Lorrie Clevenger, Jane Hodge, and Michaela Hayes support each other as they struggle toward food sovereignty. In doing so, the film also explores the legacy of early 20th century policies that prevented people of color and women from accessing loans and land.
“In directing this film, I am showing that marginalized groups, and local leaders like Karen, know that growing food is the foundation to building community power,” Walker tells Food Tank.
Over the last century, discriminatory lending and subsidizing practices by the U.S. Department of Agriculture drove Black farmers off their land. In 1910, about 14 percent of American farmers were Black, but by 2012, the number of Black farmers dwindled to less than two percent, according to the Center for American Progress. Today, Black households own one-tenth of the wealth of their white counterparts, disproportionately live under food apartheid, and bear the brunt of the diabetes epidemic.
“Changing the food system answers a lot of societal problems,” Walker tells Food Tank. “If we really want people’s health to improve across society, we have to produce and eat healthier, less environmentally-destructive food.”
Walker says supporting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) is the key to this change. But she says mainstream sustainable food movements still portray BIPOC as workers rather than owners. By placing Black and queer women on center stage, Walker hopes her film will shift the white-centered narratives surrounding the farming landscape.
While Walker hopes that the documentary will be ready for release soon, finding adequate funding for editing, marketing, and distribution remains a challenge. She currently operates on a crowd-funded budget, which includes over US$15,000 raised from an Indiegogo campaign. She hopes to find an executive producer excited to partner with her for the final stages of post-production.
Media portrayals of farmers matter, Walker argues. “[Farmers] teach us about the joy of providing for others, and the importance of knowing you have a community to rely on,” Walker tells Food Tank. “It’s really by working together and looking out for the vulnerable that a society becomes strong.”
Photo courtesy of Rise & Root Farm