Jobs in farming are more white dominated than almost any other sector, and along with many others, we at the Farm can feel uncomfortable talking about race. So, inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests and encouraged by our former Managing Director Ped Asgarian speaking of his experience as Iranian growing up in Bath, we sat down and worked out some immediate steps we could take to be more Anti-Racist.
One was to get better informed, by sharing reading lists, podcasts and films. Another was to start using 'blind shortlisting’, which means we don’t know personal information about job candidates when choosing who to interview. And the third was to put out a special call seeking Black Lives Matter champions to join our management committee. To our delight, Acomo Oloya came to visit, and to our even greater delight she agreed to join us! Here Acomo has shared a detailed account of how she came to join our farm family...
I was born and raised in Northern Uganda. I worked on the family farm, looking after my younger siblings, attending to livestock and crops, and cooking for the farm workers. The farm I grew up on was over 975 acres. My parents eventually acquired 60,000 acres to start a cattle ranch, but this never materialised because of the 2 decades of protracted violent conflict in the region that started in 1986.
When I came to the UK in 1988, having been used to working the land, I started growing vegetables in my back yard. I experimented with several seeds from Africa, some were successful but most would not grow in this country. I had to get used to seasonal planting. In Uganda, although we had dry and wet seasons, we could grow crops throughout the year. I have also always loved cooking since I was a child. Growing up on the farm, we would always cook vegetables we had picked fresh for the meal and only as much as we needed.
My professional life has mainly been in public health in the UK and Africa. Recently, I have been involved in the health and social care sector. I have researched and worked among conflict-affected and displaced populations in Uganda, Somalia, and Somaliland. In the past 5 years, I have been contributing to a large poverty research project in Uganda with UNICEF and the University of Bristol. These made me really appreciate the value of growing food, no matter how small the piece of land.
Over the past 13 years, I have been living on an organic farm in Winford, growing vegetables, herbs, and fruits in my backyard. Now that I am joining The Community Farm, I am looking forward to participating in the community activities. I hope that my presence as a Black African woman will encourage people from other backgrounds and ethnicities to get involved and to visit the farm. It is a great place for children and young people to learn where their food comes from, and to plant the seed of 'Growing your Own’.
I am very excited. I feel my childhood spirit is blossoming again and I am really looking forward to playing my part in The Community Farm.
Acomo Oloya, Management Committee member