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Ferns: Principles for Social Change

By India Fleming-Klink, Farm Fellow

When I first arrived at AMI, I was surprised to see that much of the mountain was still kind of brownish. I soon found out that spring had not quite sprung, which meant that I had the pleasure of experiencing spring twice this year. It's been incredible these past four weeks to watch the progression of all the plants, emerging into a sea of green. Especially the ferns!

Ferns are one of my favorite plants, and I was happy to discover that I am surrounded by them on this mountain.

I first discovered my love and admiration for ferns during my freshman year of college in a Nonviolence Class, during which we read the book Emergent Strategy by the social justice facilitator, healer, and doula Adrienne Marree Brown. Brown defines “emergent strategy” as a framework and practice for “plans of action, personal practice, and collective organizing tools that account for constant change and rely on the strength of relationship for adoptiontation” (23-24). Brown focuses on biomimicry as a model for creating more just and equitable worlds, referencing by way of example the work of Complex Movements, an artists collective based in Detroit whose work focuses on the transformation of communities and movements for social justice through engaging with systems of ferns, ants, wavicles, mycelium, starlings, and dandelions as tools for movements (44-45).

Ferns are a form of fractal: a “never-ending,” “infinitely complex” pattern comprised by the repetition of a simple process, “over and over in an ongoing feedback loop” (Brown 51). The patterns of ferns can act as a lesson and principal for how we engage in social change. Through small-scale solutions, we can impact the whole system. As I embark on this new journey at AMI of building more just and equitable food systems, ferns stand as a constant reminder and principal for engaging in social justice work.

“Biomimicry is the imitation of the models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems” (Brown 23).

Brown, Adrienne Maree. Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds. AK Press, 2017.

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