Page 28 - Vallet Table - Spring 2020
P. 28

                                 UP FOR THE CHALLENGE
Washington started farming in her backyard
as early as 1985 and spent years contributing
to community gardens in the Bronx and New York City. She completed a few apprenticeships as well, but nothing compared to starting Rise
& Root in 2014. Needless to say, “challenging” doesn’t even begin to cover all that it took to get the farm up and running.
“We learned quickly we were in over our heads,” Washington admits. “We were four women, and we could not keep up with the weeds. The black dirt grows the best vegetables and the best weeds.”
   Not only did she and her co-owners lack the real-world training, but they also struggled to find their place as minority women (of color or sexual orientation) in an industry that is overwhelmingly white and male. According to Washington, of the 58,000 farmers in New York State, only 168 are black. The statistic was one she dove deep into the census report to discover after seeing not a single person who looked like her at the national farming conferences she attended.
“[The conferences] were talking about diversity of cattle and plants, not farmers. No one mentioned the diversity of farmers,” she says. “You can’t talk about diversity and equity when you have a class of people who are being denied.”
Like Washington, Patti Jackson faced her fair share of obstacles in her past life as a pastry chef. Now the chef and partner at Saugerties catering company Kitchen at Shale Hill Farm, Jackson began her culinary story in Baltimore, Maryland and Washington D.C., where she came face-to-face with poverty, sexism, and cultural discrimination. In the kitchen, she grew accustomed to criticism from French pastry chefs for her American roots and often found herself as the only woman in restaurants with full rosters of front- and back-of-house staff.
26 the valley table march – may 2020

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