Alabama native Jasmyn Story created a space that nourishes, educates, and heals those in her community. She launched the Freedom Farm Azul Opening Festival on Aug. 21, where adults and children gathered for food, music, culture, live poetry, and storytelling in the woods, amongst other activities.
Story’s civic duty to help others feel safe and seen was inspired by spending her adolescent years with her grandparents and other family members in Arkansas.
“I spent time with my grandparents, great aunts, and uncles in Arkansas during my childhood,” she told AL.com. “I would wake up at age 10, 11 years old and ride my bike in rural Arkansas from my grandma’s house to my great-aunt Naomi’s house and just spend time with her as she did her daily tasks.”
She was “impressed with how independently” her great-aunt “provided almost everything for herself and her husband.”
She said, “That lifestyle and her traditional knowledge — her ability to take care of animals with really an elementary school education — I not only respect it, but it also seems like a really crucial knowledge to hold in the times we’re in right now.”
The themed event dubbed, “Imagining Liberation,” was catered to children but welcomed all. The goal was to create a familiar communal element similar to “Your favorite family reunion slash old-school field trip,” says Story.
“We want people to always feel like they’ve arrived home when they visit Freedom Farm Azul.”
During the pandemic, Story said she began to consider her “gift and legacy” and how she can support her community. She helped purchased 15 acres of land in the central Alabama town of Prattville specifically for nonprofit work. Alfonza Greer and his wife, “Mama” Callie Greer help with farming and cultivating the space, while Gamely de la Cruz offers his consulting services.
Story appreciates Greer’s “traditional” way of farming — muscadines are grown on the property now — without using chemical pesticides for crops, adding that he does “triple checks” on the compost. There is also a virtual experience for fans who cannot physically interact or visit the space.
“There’s a lot of historical and structural harm that our communities have experienced in this space,” she said. “We want to offer them a place to talk about it, reflect on it, to process it and to name it.”
Story is one of many extraordinary women creating spaces within their own community. A 2017 census report revealed that women farmers account for 36 percent of the 3.4 million farmers in the Unites States Two years later, reports from the Agricultural Resource Management Survey report show that more than half of all farming operations in the U.S. had at least one woman operator.
Freedom is also the name of another initiative in Georgia, which intends to create a city founded by and for Black families. Real estate agent Ashley Scott and local entrepreneur Renee Walters gathered 19 families to purchase close to 97 acres of land for The Freedom Georgia Initiative in August 2020.
There hasn’t been much-updated news on the Freedom Georgia website. Time will tell if Story’s Freedom Farm Azul will move forward as planned.