Words by dayax raage
PHOTOGRAPHS BY ELENA CREMONA
The Black and femme-led horticultural collective is advocating for food security and land reparations. One of its members, dayax raage, explains how soil regeneration can help foster a collective sense of wellbeing.
The rhythm of the land—its seasons, movements, even its breath—fills me with an internal peace. I feel poignantly less alone surrounded by land; it reassures me and, in return, I aid the health of the place that coexists alongside me.
GoGrowWithLove began as a place to explore what it means to be supported by land work and food growing. Affectionately named Moorland, it was founded by Sandra D’Salazar in January 2020. Now, GoGrowWithLove is a dedicated growing space in North London that advocates for food security and access to heritage-appropriate foods in order to break our dependence on imported produce. The collective is designed to enable independence, foster knowledge exchange, and encourage nutritional health that reflects the needs of femme-identifying folks of African and Caribbean heritage.
The horticultural practice of GoGrowWithLove is a combination of TEK—otherwise known as Traditional Ecological Knowledge—and regenerative farming practices. For those that don’t know, regenerative farming principles are a nuanced agricultural approach that expand on organic farming practices to incorporate planetary health and sustainability into the process. GoGrowWithLove applies regenerative farming principles to catalyze personal experiences that facilitate emotional release.
You only have to visit once to become a SoilSxstar—and, by extension, part of this growing collective. What’s required is mutual respect as well as a willingness to embark on the collective journey to deprogram white supremacist colonial conditioning.
GoGrowWithLove is built on the principles of accountability and the understanding that we act as stewards of the planet.
As a group, we often talk about how we teleport into another realm when we enter the plot; every SoilSxstar has a personal, and very different, relationship with the land. The places we, as individuals, visit introspectively when cultivating the land is reflected in the landscaping and the design—and also in the silence on the days we feel raw. It has become a private space for private thoughts that transform into a collective sense of wellbeing. I have been a part of GoGrowWithLove for 10 months, and around me (a gender-queer, gender-fluid person) are cis-women who are healers, holistic therapists, nutritionists, doulas, and artists, who want to offer a space for reimagining land work as a way to create compassionately with intention.
GoGrowWithLove is built on the principles of accountability and the understanding that we act as stewards of the planet. As a result, we have designed the training program to follow the natural growing cycles of the Earth. And so, in October, we leave the land to sleep.
That’s because we’re in the part of the cycle where caring for the land means slowing down. Some call it fallowing, while others, who are familiar with the crop rotations, plant nitrogen fixing crops to give the land the boost it needs after a productive year. Either way, we must come together in union with the land to heal it in the way it, time after time, heals us.
At GoGrowWithLove, this process feels very personal: we create blankets made from leftover tarp, we hang up lace curtains, and suncatchers. We lay hay around sensitive plants made more vulnerable by the colder season. After harvest, we prop old sunflowers against the surrounding trees, so they retain the same views they have enjoyed all summer. We ask for permission from the land before we cut and dig.
We must come together in union with the land to heal it in the way it, time after time, heals us.
The intuitive way we interact with the plot can be seen across many Indigenous communities in the Global South. For example, the climate-vulnerable Indigenous tribes of Kalinga and South Cotabato in the Philippines have a varied range of planting and harvesting rituals. They perform ceremonies before removing trees to invite the tree’s spirits to relocate to another site. Similarly, Sarah Queblatin of Soil Soul Story shares that, in order to visit the Talaandig tribe of Bukidnon, also in the Philippines, a ritual must be performed that obtains permission from the spirit guides and other land keepers. A-dae Romero-Briones, director of programs of Native Agriculture and Food Systems at the First Nations Development Institute, speaks about the fallacy to think that we can imitate a system that has been in existence for hundreds of thousands if not millions of years. There are aspects of our environment that we will never know, therefore with humility and respect, we have to sustain restorative practices that prioritize the health of the planet and the experiences that exist within it.
The physical access to spaces that hold heavily melanated people of African descent in the UK is overwhelmingly unavailable. However, the symbiotic relationship that arises from restoring and healing the land can be examined deeply through the lens of individuals that have been racialized as Black. When one is unable to find rest, rejuvenation or play because of the limitations an oppressive society has imposed on their existence, how can one then begin to fully realize and actualize themselves? How is one able to maintain their health, wellbeing, and intuitive strengths when the space and time required to experience these realities are made intentionally unavailable?
The land during the resting period offers us the protection needed to recover and restore our confidence and energy.
For me, sleep is uncompromisable, hence why this stage of the growing cycle is necessary. The GoGrowWithLove allotment, which is guarded by mirrors and talismans during this time of year, hosts our gatherings, potluck bonfires, and reflections. It becomes a place for us to meet in gratitude and honor our ancestors. And it’s this sense of community that enables us to see nature not as separate to us, but rather as a part of us to love and nurture; not as a faraway entity that we destroy for our own gains, but as a relationship that involves care and communion.