She’s got dimples that look like they were hand-seeded in the womb, soil permanently nested in her nails from harvesting, a contagiously radiant smile, and gusto like you’ve never seen. Meet Cheyenne Sundance – a young, Black, vibrant force of mother nature from Toronto – who is defying the status quo.
The average age of a farmer in Canada is 55. Cheyenne is 23. Land access and ownership is nearly impossible for Black farmers to aquire due to intergenerational and institutionalized discrimination and injustice. Cheyenne currently leases space in Toronto where she nurtures her organically grown greenhouse produce, but was able, as of last month, to raise $30,000 via crowdfunding to secure the 20% down payment needed for a farm property outside of Ontario. She is just on the cusp of being a landowner!
Pretty impressive for someone who never wanted to be a farmer.
“Farming was the last thing I ever wanted to be when I grew up. I always wanted to be an actor or in creative arts.”
But instead of finding mentorship and a safe place to learn and grow, Cheyenne’s highschool experience was full of discrimination. She tried three different highschools, each one worse than the one before it. So she left, and this is where her journey to the farm would begin.
She laced up her dusty boots and at the ripe age of 18 she packed her bags and joined her friends on a trip to Cuba where they lived in a self-sustaining rural village. Here she would learn not through the aged pages of used books and jaded professors, but through the land. Her greatest teacher became the ecosystem. Food sovereignty, accessibility, and patterns of livestock intrigued her and her curiosity and her drive to learn more became insatiable.
After backpacking throughout Canada, she finally landed back in Toronto and got a job at a local grocery store. As a product of her own environment, she started to learn more about the local food system. “I began to notice the disparity between who received income from within that system. The store would only buy from established, white farmers with wealth who had been doing it for 60 years. They weren’t willing to support the small young farmer that just started out.”
Once Cheyenne began to see the injustice, she couldn’t unsee it.
“There is a very big disconnect of, yes, organic food is great, but we must take into consideration the social complications that arise from supporting these farms that aren’t even in Toronto that have intergenerational wealth. What that means is that there is a conscious choice happening to not support local farms that are run by newcomers, women, women of color, and people with disabilities. And that made me angry.”