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Woman at Work: Farmer and Program Coordinator Mirabai Collins, Black Futures Farm

Tell us about Black Futures Farm. 
Black Futures Farm is a community farm, staffed by volunteers and two resident farmers. We sit on 1.15 acres with 17 different fruit trees, vegetables, flowers, medicinal and cooking herbs. Our farm is located on the grounds of the Learning Gardens Lab at 60th and SE Duke in Portland, Oregon.

Black Futures Farm community members gather under a tree
Black Futures Farm community members gather under a tree

We are a group of Black identified/Diasporic and Continental African people working together, growing food and community. Our aim is to implement the best methods of growing food, taking the best of what we can from our ancestral practices while being a part of innovation.

We’re all planting seeds for this post-pandemic future. What’s growing at Black Futures Farm? 
We're developing a clean energy plan (solar, water reclamation, etc.) and we'll be growing more culturally-grounded (pun intended) foods and experimenting with edible leaves and shoots. 

Black Futures Farm will also have a performance and outdoor education space, a Black eco-aesthetics library on site, and arts-focused programming within the next couple of years. 

I can’t wait to check out the performances! What does a day on the farm look like now?
Every day is different, but most involve coffee, plants, planning, people, and piles of virtual paper (administrative tasks). Mirabai Collins Woman at Work Black Futures Farm

What made you choose this career path?
As someone who has benefitted (survived?) from the generosity and kindness of others, I have always worked to be generous and kind to others. From this, I kind of fell into what I do now. I put myself out there to be helpful, and found a way to help. 

When I first moved to Oregon, in the summer of 2018, I saw a tiny advert in the Portland Mercury for an event called BlackFEAST, being held at a place called Unity Farm, with something called "Mudbone Grown." 

The event was about Black community and food and farming—all I needed to know. So, I circled it and pinned it to the wall and, when the day came, I found my way home, so to speak. Then I just kept showing up, kept volunteering to do stuff, and I ended up helping with WeGrow (a Black community garden/gardening adventure) and the Back to the Root conference, and . . . the rest is (relatively recent) history.

How did you learn to farm?
I've completed organic farming internships in California, also some Master Gardener training and working with folks who have knowledge and are willing to share. 

Mirabai and Cruciferous Veg

What do you have to sacrifice to be good at what you do? 
I'm in recovery—I don't have to sacrifice anything, it's all just life on life's terms.

What are you great at, and what do you suck at? 
I'm great at imagining and encouraging, at bringing things to fruition, at supporting the people with whom I work. I'm terrible when it comes to socializing (crowds, large groups), public speaking, interviews, surprises. I'm also not especially patient or forgiving when I neglect my meditation and/or recovery practices. 

What scares you? 
The inevitable: old age, sickness, and death. 

What do you want people to know about being a woman in your field? 
The beauty of working with the land is that it de-centers people. 

Tell us something surprising about you. 
I grew up in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). 

Who’s a role model who helped you in your journey to where you are? 
I don't really have role models. Toni Morrison and Fyodor Dostoevsky have been lifelong . . . lights? Guides, in a way, in terms of having received their invitations to think. 

Being raised in the spiritual philosophies of Eastern religiosity, I don't tend to idolize or emphasize human beings. We are all models of the same infinite thing, really. Nothing—and everything—special. 

Mirabai at Black Futures Farm

If you could give your 20-year-old-self advice, what would it be? 
I would say: do not settle, you can do anything you want to do, you have WAY more power than you think you have. You. Have. WAY. More. Power. Mirabai. USE IT. Oh, and, you're beautiful. So beautiful.

Follow Mirabai, her partner in farming and life Malcolm, and the work of Black Futures Farm here. Mirabai’s pronouns are she/her.

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