The Story of a Project

Earth to Tables Legacies

The Earth to Tables Legacies educational package is a collection of stories growing out of our conversations over five years. We have chosen to bring those stories to life through short videos and photo essays, so you can see the people and their diverse relationships with earth and tables, so you can hear their voices and imagine a dialogue with them. The Earth to Tables Legacies video introduces you to the project, the places, the people and some of the themes that emerged from the five-year exchange.

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Earth is the main protagonist in this story, but who will speak for her? Maybe she IS speaking, but in a different language, through floods and fires, through droughts and hurricanes, through global warming, health pandemics, and the climate crisis.

The “to” in Earth to Tables represents the process of securing (growing, gathering, hunting, fishing) and preparing the food that ends up on our tables. The “to” is about the relationship humans have with all the elements of life that sustain us. We relate to these elements in many ways, some that are Life-destroying and some that are Life-giving.

Tables represent the human in all our relations. Humans have developed diverse cultures and food practices, so there are many different kinds of tables. The Haudenosaunee ate seated around a fire in the longhouse. European colonizers introduced tables to the Americas, and to this day, settler-Indigenous negotiations take place around a table, often representing colonial laws and ways of thinking and acting. But we also gather around tables to reclaim community with healthy and culturally appropriate foods.

The Earth to Tables Legacies project was born in 2015 as an intergenerational and intercultural exchange of food sovereignty activists. It became a process of reconnecting the relationships that have been lost through industrial agriculture and a corporate global food system that treats food as a commodity in the market. Rather it affirmed food as a life-sustaining medicine, with deep cultural and spiritual meaning.

We started with family and friends, and with our own bioregion. The idea was “to dig where we stand.”1 After the first year of visits and conversations, we stumbled upon the Earth to Tables framework for our exchange, through the two key women collaborators. Ontario-based settler2 farmer Dianne Kretschmar loves to get her hands in the earth, while Mohawk Chandra Maracle starts with the kitchen table as the site for her food activism. Dianne and Chandra represent two ends of food sovereignty, from promoting local organic production to sharing good food with family and friends around the table.

The word Legacies has multiple meanings. Legacies can refer to what we carry from the past, how our ancestors, their experiences and knowledge remain within us. Legacies can also refer to the future, to what we are offering now as a legacy for the next seven generations. Some legacies are heavy, leave scars, and require healing. Others are to be cherished, recovered and shared.

While Dianne faces the legacies of over-cultivation and decreasing farm labour, Chandra confronts the legacies of intergenerational trauma of residential schools and colonization reflected in food practices in Indigenous communities.

We are all living with the legacy of a destructive, unjust and unsustainable food system, that has “stuffed and starved”3 populations, and has threatened both human health and the health of the planet.

The stories we focus on here are narrated by food activists who are motivated by a vision of a way of growing, exchanging, and eating food that is healthy – physically, culturally, ecologically, spiritually. From Earth to Tables.

As Cherokee writer Thomas King concludes, “The truth about stories is that’s all we are.”’4 But he also cautioned: “We need to be careful about the stories we tell.” We acknowledge that we are sharing only certain stories, and with specific perspectives we identify with. We invite readers to listen and read critically, challenging the ideas within this package, sharing your own stories and developing your own perspectives.

  1. “Dig Where You Stand” was the name of a famous popular education school in Sweden in the early 20th century, emphasizing the importance of understanding deeply the specific ecology and culture of the place where you live.
  2. See discussion of the term ‘settler’ in Our Migration Stories.
  3. Raj Patel. Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System. Brooklyn: Melville House, 2012.
  4. Thomas King. The Truth about Stories: A Native Narrative. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008.