Building Emancipatory Food Power: Freedom Farms, Rocky Acres, and the Struggle for Food Justice




Food Justice, Food Power, Race, Land, Economic Autonomy, Self-determination


While scholars who study issues of food justice use the term food power rarely—if at all—their argu­ments often position the rise of the food justice movement in the context of food power that sus­tains oppression in the food system. Similarly, many food justice activists and organizations produce an analysis of oppressive forms of food power, while placing the goals of the movement to create sustainable community-based interventions in the periphery. Yet, the pursuit of food justice is a dual process related to power. This process is characterized by the simultaneous acts of disman­tling oppressive forms of food power and building emancipatory forms of food power. It also has deep roots in the historical arc of food politics in the Black Freedom Struggle of the civil rights era. However, we know very little about this dual pro­cess and how black communities engage in it. In this paper, I juxtapose two cases of black farm projects—the historical case of Freedom Farms Cooperative (FFC) in Mississippi and the contem­po­rary case of the Rocky Acres Community Farm (RACF) in New York—to explore the dual process of food justice. I conclude with a brief discussion on what the cases teach us about this dual process and its implications for scholars and activists who work on issues of food justice. Such implications provide insights into the possibilities of the food justice movement in the future and challenge the movement to include, more explicitly, issues of race, land, self-determination, and economic autonomy.

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Author Biography

Bobby J. Smith, II, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

2018–2019 Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of African American Studies



How to Cite

Smith, B. J. (2019). Building Emancipatory Food Power: Freedom Farms, Rocky Acres, and the Struggle for Food Justice. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 8(4), 33–43.

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