Stony Point Center, a national conference center for the Presbyterian Church in Rockland County, New York, put food justice and sustainable farming front and center at their first “Farm to Table Gala” fundraiser last week. 

The fund-raising event put the focus on the work that goes on at the center's farm by serving home-grown food and also furthered the mission of working toward food justice by recognizing Jalal Sabur of Sweet Freedom Farm and the Freedom Food Alliance as the recipient of the first annual Living Traditions Award. 

The award is meant to recognize someone who exemplifies the values of Stony Point’s Community of Living Traditions: justice, peace, nonviolence, earth consciousness and radical hospitality.

“Jalal’s work stood out to us because of the way he uses farming and food distribution to promote social justice,” said Will Summers, farmer and food educator at Stony Point Center.

Sabur began organizing groups with a focus on mission and racial justice while a student at SUNY Purchase College, organizing students to take leftover food from the dining hall to local shelters and food pantries, and trips to give out food and clothing to the homeless in New York City. Eventually Sabur shifted his work from student/campus organizer to community organizer.

Sabur taught gardening skills, cooking, and nutrition to young people in Brooklyn while working as part of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement in 2009, and in 2011 he moved to Dutchess County and started farming with Wassaic Community Farm.

While there he co-founded with political prisoner Herman Bell the Freedom Food Alliance, a group that is “a collective of small rural and urban farmer, activists, artists, community members, and political prisoners who use food as an organizing tool to address food sovereignty, environmental justice, prisoner justice and economic justice,” according to the group's blog.

One of the projects of the Freedom Food Alliance is the VROOM Bus Cooperative, a vegetable oil fueled bus the alliance makes available to local activists groups. They began to use the bus for a new project of their own, Victory Bus Rides, in an effort to make it possible for families in urban areas to visit loved ones in prisons in rural areas. They also give the families some of the fresh food raised in the community.

“Through the Victory Bus Project, he pursues a unique mission to build bridges between the families of prisoners who live in the city with farming efforts in rural communities where most prisoners are housed,” said Summers. “At Stony Point Center, we want to see more of these sorts of innovative efforts toward food justice.”

Sabur received $1,000 as part of the award intended to encourage his leadership or any of his initiatives and a gift certificate for use of Stony Point Center either for personal retreat or meeting space for his organization.

Farmer Will Summers shows off Stony Point Center chickens on the farm tour. —Photo by Elyse Brazel, multifaith resident of the Community of Living Traditions

Visitors to Stony Point are welcome to visit the farm for tours, schedule a food justice activity, or volunteer during their stay. All of the food grown on the farm is grown using organic methods, part of the farm's mission to practice agriculture in a way this is sustainable and just.

While the “Farm to Table Gala” fundraiser has passed, Stony Point Center welcomes businesses, churches, community organizations, and individuals who would like to support their work by donating or becoming a sponsor.

Toni Montgomery is a free-lance writer and frequent contributor to Presbyterian News Service who lives in Statesville, N.C., where she also serves as church secretary for First Presbyterian Church of Statesville.