We were privileged to bring in the new year working alongside Land In Our Names and the Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC) to host the first in-person Justice Hub at the conference, which ORFC have recorded as the biggest gathering for agroecology in the world.
The conference saw a building sentiment of land and land justice being central to issues of food and farming. More sessions than ever were talking about land, multiple speakers referenced the issue of concentrated land ownership in the UK, rooted in this country through the enclosures of the middle ages, and continuing through different forms and facets today - such as the selling off of public land, disappearance of public footpaths, and diminishment of rights to protest in public spaces. We hosted the Justice Hub to build solidarity and focus on land justice as central to the movement for agroecology, particularly through intersections with issues of race, food, class, climate, incarceration, health, wealth, and social justice.
What did we feel we achieved?
We knew there was a hunger to talk about such issues at the Oxford Real Farming Conference, but it was deeply powerful to see sessions in the Justice Hub filled to capacity, and flowing with stories and ideas. The range of topics was far-reaching: we began the conference hearing from Miknaf Ha’aretz about how their collective is building a Jewish Movement for land justice, and ended with the room filled with soil, in a sensory workshop about composting trauma. It was also an achievement to share the space with a wide range of people and interests within the conference’s sphere.
The room was empowered by narratives that centred land justice at the intersection of different struggles…
You can delve into in-depth Justice Hub session notes here.
The Jumping Fences Report: Land justice, food justice and racial justice in British Farming session channelled hope for progress in racial justice for rural landscapes and British farming, the least diverse occupation in the UK. This report is the first of its kind researching Black and People of Colour (BPOC) farming in the UK, and the session shared its calls to shift narratives, shift organisational cultures, provide material resources, and support networks of BPOC farmers in order to support justice in the sector.
In Katherine Wall’s session At the root: understanding our relationship to land in the struggle for collective liberation, we co-created this timeline of recent and historical events that have impacted our relationships to the land. The story we collectively laid out before us was a recognition of different threads of knowledge and histories that have led us to where we stand today, remembering some of the struggles that were fought, won and lost. We questioned: how much do we consent to, and are complicit in the current system? What struggles are we forgetting? And how much do we understand how we got here, to the land where we are standing?
Land justice also threaded into conversation through the importance of belonging: in the first session on Jewish land justice, Miknaf Ha’aretz defined the Yiddish concept of ‘Doikayt’ - ‘hereness’ - meaning all Jews should be connected to where they are, right now, and fight alongside others in those lands for justice, importantly throughout times of landlessness and dispossession. Composting Trauma allowed us to consider trauma as a disconnection with the Earth and its ecologies, focusing on how we ‘compost’ - and relate to natural processes - in order to understand ourselves as belonging with the Earth, interdependent with the land, and interconnected with each other.
The session on Finding opportunities today for communities to have a say in how their land is used was also rooted in a sense of belonging, as the panel discussed pathways to engage communities and a diversity of voices within them through participatory democracy. After all, every single one of us is, and will be, affected by what happens on the land. Community voice and power also played a role in How do prisons and policing impact and intersect with our struggles for land justice? both on a level of community resistance to local land being used for private ‘mega prisons’, and also on abolition as a building project for the creation of a world where we create stable communities. This project rests on a multitude of connections with land justice: including using land for reparations to marginalised communities instead of private prisons, awareness of environmental destruction through prison construction, and seeking connection with land as a form of healing communities (eg. the initiative in Chicago to garden vacant lots that reduced gun violence by 40%.) Read the in-depth discussion notes in session notes here.
What are we moving towards, as hosts of the Justice Hub?
We are building towards spaces, including the Oxford Real Farming Conference, where narratives surrounding the need for land justice are central and widely understood. We want to invigorate belonging and connection with land and with each other - and we believe that centering justice is essential in order to do that. We hope that the future of the timeline we created about our relationship with land can be filled with opportunities to work together in our struggles, shifting narratives to understand land as a shared resource, full of possibility to feed, nourish, and provide home for us all.
What’s still left to do? What should we keep on talking about?
Our work to deepen our discussions and hear from each other’s struggles will remain ongoing. We need to question how we create spaces that are equitable, and provide opportunities to hear from marginalised voices and people who are disenfranchised from the land. We still think we need to deepen our understanding about what racial justice looks like on this land, and continue focusing discussions on class - particularly about class struggle and workers’ rights that are foundational to our histories and experiences, but often still forgotten. We also want to build this movement around land justice, finding ways to nurture connections and providing spaces that radiate joy, make us want to collaborate, give us energy to do things.
Following these few days, we are invigorated to participate in and convene more conversations and spaces working to build land justice in the coming year. You can keep up to date with our work through our newsletter, and can always get in touch with us if you have any thoughts you would like to discuss or collaborate on.