‘How is it sustainable if only 1% can afford your food?’: the man on a quest to change farming

Sylvanaqua Farms pigs are raised outdoors in forests and pastures. Photograph: Chris and Annie Newman


Chris Newman, 38, and his wife, Annie, 35, always planned to retire with a farm. But after a health scare in 2013, the couple left their jobs as a software engineer and art gallery director to found Sylvanaqua Farms, a 120-acre operation in northern Virginia that produces pasture-raised chicken, eggs and pork and grass-fed beef.

Newman has gained a sizable following online for his writing and advocacy, which focuses on producing food in ways that don’t exploit people or the environment.

Scaling up Sylvanaqua’s operations is more important than achieving perfection, said Newman. “Our goal on our farm is to responsibly produce as much food as we possibly can and just get it into as many mouths as possible, making sure that what we produce isn’t just accessible to the upper crust.”

To meet that goal, Sylvanaqua has pledged to donate half its harvest to food aid organizations throughout the Chesapeake region, as part of a mutual aid program focused on people who ordinarily can’t afford high-quality meat and produce.

Newman, who is Black and an enrolled member of the Choptico Band of Piscataway Indians, spoke with the Guardian about racism in the farm-to-table movement, how indigenous practices influence the way he farms and why, ultimately, feeding people needs to be at the heart of sustainable farming.

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