Hi my name is Mara, I’m currently part of the FarmStart programme at The Plot.

My journey towards working the land hasn’t been straightforward. I grew up in Mexico City around faded stories from my mom and grandmother about the Chinampas, the floating farming system that used to cover the whole of the territory, which now houses 22 million people.

In my summer holidays as a young child, we would visit my dad’s parents 450 miles away, my grandad would take my sister and me to the fruit farm to collect nanches and tamarind. My grandparents from both sides were farmers. However, my mother’s side in Mexico City lost its land to the state’s expropriation (the seizure of our property) in the 70s/80s, after the agrarian reform in 1915.

My mother’s family were Indigenous people with no academic studies and depended solely on their small piece of land. Their agricultural knowledge and the family’s identity as indigenous farmers were lost with the land that was taken. My father’s side, having had access to institutional education, managed to keep their land, but not their interest in working it. They were drawn to the safety promised by the colonial idea of progress and social mobility through institutionalised education. As a result, in the course of two generations, my family’s relationship to land, agriculture and indigeneity has been completely divorced and erased from our identity. 

Only a few years ago, when I started learning more about sustainably made textiles (I was working with textiles for the film and TV industry), I started to understand the links between industrially produced textiles and racism – specifically the implications of this industrial production for land sovereignty and thus food sovereignty.

Then during the Covid lockdowns, I was stuck in Mexico. I spent my time attending online seminars on antiracism and race literacy in the Mexican context. This helped me gain a better understanding of my family’s identity, my relationship with the land, and the indigenous struggle.

On my return to London, I joined the Zapatista Solidarity Network and participated in the facilitation of the Zapatista Journey for Life across Europe on their visit to the UK, or the WISE islands as they call them (Wales, Ireland, Scotland, England). I’ve always been intrigued by the Zapatista peasant movement and concepts of land and racial justice, but I struggled to relate them to my personal experience until I did this learning.

Last January I left London after 21 years and moved to Lancaster and successfully applied to join The Plot CSA’s FarmStart program. I wanted to pursue a way of life that aligned with my views on collective land stewardship outside of vertical relationships with an understanding of reciprocity towards the land, environment and people, and the responsibilities that come from being residents of the global north.

FoodFutures attracted me with its commitment to transforming the district’s food system integrally. These past months have been insightful. I’ve been involved in a non-profit organic market garden and witnessed the impact of climate change on the land. Our carrots keep dying; it’s June and the soil is still too wet and too cold. Last year, it was the opposite, according to Dennis, the lead grower.

It is also painfully obvious that the financial barriers to access both land and training are stopping young people from considering a career in the sector. Things need to change, and I am a very hopeful believer that change is indeed possible if we are willing to address these issues from an anti-colonial, anti-racist, and anti-patriarchal point of view.

We are a long way, but I am very excited to have started here.

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