Thank you for following and contributing to Courtney Oats, her family, and her community of social change agents in Eupora, Mississippi.  A community of 35 people across the country helped raise $1140 in the last two months to pay a lawyer and fine.  With your help, she is starting nursing school at a local college, growing winter greens with her community, and continuing to fight for justice.

A note of thanks from Courtney:

"I would like to thank you for your support and generosity.  Thank you for caring for someone who's faced racism and discrimination and trying to do something positive for their community and youth.

I think it was something great and positive to be able to tell my story and know that I'm not alone.  You heard my cry.  I'm very grateful that you were able to give out of your pocket and support young people whose lives are being suppressed.  I'm glad to come to that part of my life where I can teach younger youth how to grow food and eat well.  I will always be grateful.

It means a lot to me that I can continue to organize and work with the next generation.  For me to be able to do what I do, organizing, especially with youth, it's a gift.  I appreciate the support that you've given me.  I'm so grateful to continue working with youth and the [Real Food] fellows."

Again, we thank you.  Please continue following the stories of the Real Food Fellows and act on the Bring Healthy Back and Farm Bill campaigns.

By Adrien Salazar
The Food and Freedom Riders support the United Farm Workers. Photo by Hai Vo.

A month ago I wouldn’t have considered the work that I was doing any way historic. I had a limited knowledge of the way food and agriculture worked in America. Since then I have come to know the thunder rolling across the fields, through farms, and to our dinner tables, and I have come to know my part in it.

I became a Food and Freedom Rider on August 29, 2011. The Food and Freedom Rides were a journey in the legacy of the Freedom Rides of the civil rights movement.

Through my work at Green for All in Oakland, I connected with Navina Khanna from Live Real, organizer of the rides. A collaboration between Live Real and Rooted in Community — two groups working to build a just and sustainable food system in America — the Food and Freedom Rides sought to expose the harsh realities of America’s food system while highlighting community solutions to reclaim food and health.

The rides swept through Birmingham, Alabama, up through the midwest to Detroit, Michigan. The California leg of the rides started in San Diego and rode through the Central Valley, ending in Oakland.

The Food and Freedom Riders interviewed organic farmers, farm workers, youth, and community workers along the road to document stories of resilience.
I joined the rides in Fresno and immediately felt swept in the whirlwind. In my first day I met an enthusiastic organic raw milk dairy farmer, a raw food enthusiast who also was a family-farm owner in the Fresno countryside, and the California Secretary of Agriculture.

In this series of posts, I will document stories of the people I met and the realities I witnessed. Throughout the rides I saw the squalor and injustice of a broken food system. Yet I also met people fighting to transform that system into one that prioritizes the well-being of people and the environment. I saw that we — the youth, the new farmers, the organizers and entrepreneurs — are at the forefront of this transformation.

I too am a part of this history. I am working to build a more just and sustainable planet. It is part of the reason this blog exists. It is why I am doing the work I do now with my hands in the earth. Together we are pushing food and agriculture to be the source of life, health, and community abundance it can be. The next agrarian revolution is here. It is us.

My name is Adrien Salazar. I am a Food and Freedom Rider. And these are our stories.

A view from inside the Food and Freedom Ride.
This blog post is cross-posted from Adrien's blog and the Green for All blog.

By Maya Salsedo
    Today was an inspiring and moving day. We had an emotional start at the border of San Diego and Tijuana. From there we drove up to south LA to meet our friends at the Social Justice Learning Institute. When I learned we were headed to an ‘institute’ I imagined an overly air conditioned building with minimal windows and bleak colors. Upon arriving I was surprised to find that the Social Justice Learning Institute was a half-acre community garden. At the Social Justice Institute we met seventeen year old TK who told us about what he is up to, down in Inglewood.  The garden grew out of a program for Black young men who as TK put it “Are stereotyped negatively.” The program has empowered young Black men to change the way their communities see them. These student then passed on the gift by engaging Latino youth, Asian youth and girls in community building programs.

    Last year was a very important year for TK and his peers, Tk told us, “There was an incident involving Black and Brown students.” TK feared this would alter the already fragile relations between Black and Brown students. So these youth decided to take action, they held dialogues where students could address each other and these issues respectfully. What a crazy idea! ;)

    After sharing with the group that his program was gearing-up to plant 100 new gardens in their community, we told TK about the Youth Food Bill of Rights and Rooted in Community. TK was excited to feel like part of a national movement and decided to sign the Youth Food Bill of Rights. He said he had been to conferences before but “I hope I can come out in the winter” for the Rooted in Community Leadership Summit. As we prepared to hit the road again, TK invited us to pick some tomatoes and sent us off with hugs! It was great to meet such an articulate and powerful young man who draws his strength from making a difference in his community.

    So, back into the Food and Freedom van we climbed on this shockingly hot day in LA our destination-Community Services Unlimited (CSU). CSU began as a program of the Black Panther Party in LA around the same time the original Freedom Rides took place. We arrived at their Mini Urban Farm an oasis in a concrete jungle dwarfed by the USC  coliseum. We were greeted by CSU Staff and youth who told us and other community members about the work they do and opportunities they offer. CSU Director Neelam Sharma described a workshop she facilitates which gives youth a chance to draw connections between their diet and behavior. Lawrence DeFreitas, a staff member at CSU told us all about how youth’s personal goals for health and wellness are directly tied to the goals for health and wellness of the community. Lawrence noted that when youth draw connections like this, they are more self determined and community minded.

    To end our afternoon at the CSU Mini Farm we toured their garden and sipped beautiful teas made from herbs on their site. The most outstanding part of the tour was, by far, the Banana trees they have that were just dripping with fruit. Bananas weren’t the only exciting bit of their farm they had everything from eggplant to native strawberries, cheremoya to zucchini and Zapotec heirloom tomatoes. Their herb garden was bountiful as well; I got to smell and taste things I had never heard of before like pineapple mint, cinnamon basil, all spice and curry leaf! CSU isn’t only growing food, they are growing their community and many up-and-coming leaders in the Food Justice movement.

    Our busy day ended with a beautiful dinner cooked by our dear friend Ozomatli, he prepared for us special Tamales from Michoacan. They were amazing, we may be on a tight schedule as Food and Freedom Riders but we certainly can make a little time for a home cooked meal and wonderful company.
Maya Salsedo
18 Santa Cruz/Oakland, CA
Rooted in Community
Live Real
by Kay Cuajunco

It’s the first day of the California leg of the Food and Freedom Ride and I feel so inspired and humbled to be on this ride with such amazing people committed to food and freedom. I also feel especially thankful for the opportunity to visit my hometown of San Diego through new eyes since becoming immersed in the movement for food justice.

I have a lot of friends and family I grew up with in San Diego who tend to associate healthy, organic food with the Bay Area -- some of them tease me, some of them still don’t quite get it, but I’m glad most of them will at least hear me out. Sometimes I say it’s as if I lead somewhat of a double life, torn between two communities, but after today, I’m beginning to see two worlds converging. San Diego is down with food justice -- there is SO much going on! 

Today we joined a food justice bike tour organized by Food and Water Watch with stops at farmers markets and community gardens around the city. My favorite site we visited was the campus garden at San Diego City College, a large well-maintained garden on a slope overlooking Downtown San Diego. In Oakland, I help coordinate the “Scraps to Soil” composting project at Laney College with Bay Localize. I think it’s so awesome that at community colleges, where most students only attend part-time and for a few years before moving on to a university, that the students truly are still building community through these spectacular gardens.

Returning to San Diego today has made me think a lot about the idea of transience. I love avocados, but when I think about planting an avocado tree in my yard, the first thought that crosses my mind is if I’ll even be living in my house long enough to enjoy the avocados. But I’ve realized that’s actually kind of selfish, isn’t it? Why not grow any and all trees for any and all to enjoy, now or years from now? The campus gardens springing up at community college campuses show us that people are transcending transience because they care about providing local, healthy food to as many people as possible.

In a lot of ways I’ve adopted the Bay Area as my home, partly because I’ve grown a lot in my time since moving there, but also because I felt really disconnected from a lot of people in San Diego. After spending the day here, I hope to rekindle the love for my roots down here and stay connected to allies working for food justice in San Diego.
Written by Hnin Hnin, Youth Programs Coordinator at Slow Food USA

It’s not your ordinary summer road trip. 13 young leaders. 8 states. 2000 miles.  A journey to expose the injustices in the food system “from the ‘hood to the heartland”.
Tipping their hats to the Freedom Rides of the Civil Rights Movement, a group of inspired young leaders who call themselves theFood & Freedom Riders will carry forward the struggle for justice. Their task is to uncover the stories of farmers, workers, and communities who are working to change the food system that denies them justice. Their goal is to weave together a movement of people from diverse backgrounds—to learn from the past and find the food movement’s own place in history.

According to Navina Khanna from Live Real, the organization behind the wheels, the Food & Freedom Rides are taking place at an important moment in time:

Right now, over 50 million Americans face food hardship, and today’s youth are the first generation with a shorter life expectancy than their parents—because of the food they eat.  We want to show that real food is a real solution—for economic revitalization, personal and public health, and the environment.

The Rides are timely for another reason: the 2012 renewal of the omnibus $300 billion Food and Farm Bill. Crucially, this legislation:
Influencing change in the Food and Farm Bill to support real food and real people will be a worthwhile harvest for the food movement and the Riders are out to plant the seeds of that change.

In the lead up to the Food & Farm Bill debates on Capitol Hill, the road trippers will be engaging youth and communities in creating a Food & Farm Bill platform, developing curriculum to share with educators, and documenting their travels on film.

They’re revved up and ready to go. The first ride, from August 7-18, will begin at Birmingham, Alabama—a turning point of the historical 1961 Freedom Rides. It will end in Detroit, Michigan—a beacon for the future of America’s food: . The second ride, from August 26-September 2, will travel through California, the nation’s salad bowl. You can follow the Riders on twitter @liverealnoworg or on their daily blog by sending an email to

For the 13 young leaders, Live Real, and the movement for food justice, it’s a road trip to be remembered.

Cross-posted at Slow Food USA’s blog.