Ep. 32: Empowering BIPOC Communities by Going Back to the Land (feat. Indy Srinath)

Today on Mushroom Hour we are honored to be joined by Indy Srinath. Indy is a forager, educator, gardener, mushroom cultivator, and steward of both her environment and her community. Her work brings many of the principles that we discuss on Mushroom Hour - wild food, mycology, permaculture, environmentalism - into urban settings and into a relational context with BIPOC communities. 

Please support Indy's campaign to create a BIPOC community farm!

Our journey begins in North Carolina where a high-school aged Indy, disillusioned by traditional education, starts to develop a relationship with the land. Before you know it, we're WWOOFing along the California coast, helping at organic farms and picking up land-based skills along the way. Returning to Asheville, NC to steward a 7-acre permaculture farm and cultivate mushrooms may seem like the dream to many of us, but it is just another stepping stone for Indy's ultimate vision. Changing scenes to the concrete jungle of LA, Indy employs the skills she's developed in herbalism, foraging and permaculture to purposefully empower chronically under-served houseless populations and BIPOC communities. What are some permaculture principles we can employ to grow food even in urban environments? Are urban agriculture and foraging useful tools in addressing major social issues like food apartheid in inner cities?   

Her mission brings some particularly poignant questions to the surface. America's undergoing a cultural reckoning as European-Americans (colloquially "White") are forced to reconcile their status quo with generational and systemic disadvantages BIPOC communities face. Amidst protest, desires to help and gestures of allyship, we are reminded that access to land, or a lack-there-of, lies at the heart of America's glaring economic, political and social imbalance. This difference in land access even spills over into land-based disciplines like farming and wild food foraging. Why are practices like farming and foraging largely the domain of European-Americans now, despite having indigenous and BIPOC roots? What are some strategies to correct this imbalance and help BIPOC Americans return to the land?   

As more minds turn to the idea of reparations as the most obvious solution to help heal a centuries-old trauma between European-Americans and BIPOC-Americans, Indy encourages us to remember that while interpersonal-reparations are a good start, what we really need are institutional reparations (ie. big banks, governments) to redress generational economic inequality. Ownership of land once more centers our conversation and provides a myriad of tangible solutions. How does a focus on increasing BIPOC ownership of land truly empower communities and address generational economic, political and social imbalances that America must reconcile if it is ever to become whole?   

Episode Resources
Indy IG: https://www.instagram.com/indyofficinalis/   
Fallen Fruit: http://fallenfruit.org/   
WWOOF: https://wwoof.net/   
Leah Thomas (Inspiration): https://www.instagram.com/greengirlleah/   
Hypomyces Lactifluorum (mushroom): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypomyces_lactifluorum   
Cordyceps Militaris (mushroom): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cordyceps_militaris

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