Cheyenne Sundance smiling and holding her hips while looking at a head of lettuce

By Cheyenne Sundance

I’ve noticed that over the last few months, I’ve received emails that have addressed Sundance Harvest as a team. I often say “we” when I speak about Sundance Harvest mainly because I’m shy and this is for community – but I think I’m under selling myself. I created Sundance Harvest all by myself when I was 21 years old. I have put my blood, sweat and tears into making it something that’s so tangible and real — high school Cheyenne would have been proud. So now, I make it known that I am Sundance Harvest. This is my baby, I have put in all the work and instead of letting people diminish my achievements, I am holding them up like a shining star. That’s what Sundance Harvest is, my shining star in a bleak and cold night.

A few of you know about how hard it’s been to deal with the rapid expansion of Sundance Harvest. I have had to hire part-time staff and I have realized that I’m not a good boss. I don’t want to be someone’s boss, I want folks to have independence in urban agriculture and craft their own way. So I decided I will not be hiring people. I’m happy about this decision because something really cool and magical birthed out of it. Radical Roots Cooperative.

Radical Roots Cooperative is a dream of mine. People I care about growing food with me and, in turn, growing community. In less than a year, Sundance Harvest has really been active and as a result I’ve noticed so much change in my community. From what I can see, Urban agriculture in Toronto hasn’t been making any major changes. I believe, part of the reason is because the non-profit model is not the solution; I think it’s a part of the larger problem. People who are systematically oppressed have to ask these non-profits and rely on them for food security. Instead what people, largely Black and Indigenous, should have in their communities is food sovereignty. A system whereby they manage it, control the seed, and chose how they grow and when. That’s what justice is. Not just community gardens, but rather community control and financial stability. You cannot pay your rent in tomatoes, you cannot survive the whole winter with just your humble harvests from your small community garden plot. Food insecurity isn’t caused by a lack of food or a lack of awareness of healthy choices, it’s a lack of income.

As someone who grew up in low-income working class home, I know this first hand. The solution is giving communities the tools they need to be resilient and survive — without non-profit interference. This is not say I don’t admire what many nonprofits are striving to do to help aide the effects colonialism, environmental racism and systemic oppression. I just think it could be done differently. What that looks like is urban farms that are governed and run by those who are most affected. Not class and race privileged people who took environmental studies in University and decided they want to “go back to the land”. Instead, those who have been historically displaced from lands here on Turtle Island and aboard that have been (and are) hurt by colonization.

Radical Roots is for us. Everything I have been doing is for us and when I say us — us knows who us is. Radical Roots is going to provide plots for us to farm and grow food as well as a direct sale through a CSA. By supporting Radical Roots, you are supporting the furthering of true food justice in Toronto that’s all led by and for youth. One that’s not dependent on benevolence, instead on independence of marginalized youth. Deciding and curating their own dreams, destinys and hopes for the future — especially in these times of climate crisis.

This is my new project and I’m proud to say that this was the end goal of something I’ve always wanted. I’ve been enjoying how big Sundance Harvest is getting, I won’t lie. But I also know that it’s time for me to give back and do what I’ve always said I was going to do — create a resilient food system. So I will be redistributing most of my food growing land towards this cooperative.

2020 is the year of radical change that has us leading it.

Resist always and forever, speak truth to power and never stop growing.

Love, Cheyenne Sundance

Cheyenne Sundance smiling and holding her hips while looking at a head of lettuce

Cheyenne Sundance is an organic farmer and food justice advocate who has worked in both rural and urban settings. Her farming has always been with a social justice framework since being able to grow your own food is the foundation of independence and liberation, especially for those who are Black, Indigenous. Cheyenne provides Toronto with organic and ethically grown produce through her year-round urban farm Sundance Harvest.

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