Browse Tag

farms

/

Meet the man in charge of over $100M recently donated to Black-Owned Businesses and HBCU’s.

The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) is a non-profit financial institution that provides capital to projects in low-income, disadvantaged, and underserved communities at affordable rates.

LISC supports community development initiatives in 35 cities and across 2,100 rural counties in 44 states. In 2018, they reported grants, loans, and investments totaling US$1.5 billion, leveraging $4.4 billion in total development and supporting over 700 partners across America.

They recently received $60 million from Lowe’s, $40 million from MacKenzie Scott (ex-wife of Jezz Bezos), and $25 million from Netflix.

We caught up with their CEO, Maurice Jones, to discuss what his organization does and what they plan to do with these funds.

 

 

Don’t forget to LIKE the video and SUBSCRIBE to the channel!

Tony O. Lawson


Subscribe and Follow SHOPPE BLACK on Facebook, Instagram Twitter


 Get your SHOPPE BLACK Apparel!

 

/

This Black Woman Owned Farm is Adapting and Thriving During a Pandemic

If you’re looking for a Black Woman-Owned Farm in Charlotte, NC, look no further than Mother’s Finest Urban Farm. We caught up with the owner, Samantha Foxx to find out more about how she and her business are doing these days.

Black Woman Owned Farm
Samantha Foxx, owner of Mother’s Finest Urban Farm (photo credit Allison Lee Eisley)

What inspired you to start a farm? 

I was inspired to get back in touch with nature after realizing the importance of self-sufficiency for me and my family. I think growing your food is a major step to having better health as families and an entire community.

Also, the aspects of self-sufficiency and having a good understanding of where our food comes from is so key. Working and learning together helps us create solutions that will decolonize our health and preserve our lives.

Black Woman Owned Farm

How has the Coronavirus outbreak affected your business?

We’ve been busy! I’m seeing more people grabbing hold of the messages I have been spreading since I started. People are investing more into their local farmers and seeing food as a source of wellness and having access to fresh quality produce is becoming more relevant.

We are working hard daily, to make sure that our community has access to quality produce. The beauty of supporting small family-owned farms is that in most cases there is only one set of hands that touches the food before it goes to your table.

Larger agriculture producers can travel for long periods and produce passes through several hands before it hits store shelves. We also have had more people signing up for CSA shares and investing to help us expand and supply as much produce to our community as possible.

Essentially, I believe farming is a community-centered task and I am happy to see more people becoming involved. Some individuals may not have space to plant or grow their food, but a CSA share is a good way to still have that access for their family to quality products and more.

Photo Credit – Christine Rucker

How has it affected your lifestyle?  

We are now essential workers, so stepping up to keep our community healthy has become a daily driving force. We have been adding beehives and more chickens in hopes of increasing production and getting more food on people’s tables. It’s a big responsibility and a lot of work, but passion gets us through it each day.

Food is comforting to many people and knowing where their next meal is coming from is so important. Seeing the smiles on a family’s face, when we drop off a box to their doorstep is worth all of the hard work.

That family has a healthy meal and at least one less worry during this trying time. That’s a beautiful thing. We need each other, now more than ever as we hope more people see the importance of planting seeds.

What new strategies have you implemented or do you plan to implement in your business? 

We have been using technology more to communicate with our supporters and have added delivery for seniors and families that may be taking care of someone with disabilities. We believe this is a huge part of our social responsibility and helping those that may be more at risk as much as possible.

I’ve started sharing more informational videos on beekeeping and farming to encourage others. I have also started to share more recipes on how to cook with the produce we offer and encourage other families to try new ways to eat healthy balanced meals.

If you had one ask of your community right now, what would it be? 

Please support small family-owned farms and understand the importance of knowing where your food comes from. CSA boxes are also a major way to support a local farmer.

View this post on Instagram

A pleasant day, for our chicks. They are jumping for joy ????

A post shared by Mother's Finest (@mothersfinesturbanfarm) on

 

They can also visit www.mothersfinesturbanfarms.com or IG @mothersfinesturbanfarms to learn more and how they can get involved. Also, I encourage families to create seed banks and start with what they have to produce the food they eat as a family themselves. I hope to see more families, becoming as self-sufficient as possible.

 

Tony O. Lawson


Subscribe and Follow SHOPPE BLACK on Facebook, Instagram &Twitter


 Get your SHOPPE BLACK Apparel!

/

This Black Owned Farm is Changing the Narrative on Farming for Black Youth

The Freedom School is a Black owned, year-round vegetable farm managed by a core group of 37 children and their adult mentors.

At New Light for New Life Church of God in West Fresno, the well-tended backyard yields a colorful fall crop—green and purple cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, and curly kale. A few stalks of okra are left, too, as a reminder of summer’s bounty. But this is not just any church garden.

“It’s very healing to get your hands in the dirt,” said Aline Reed, Freedom School’s board chair. “For African-American children, especially, we are changing the narrative of working outside—of planting, harvesting, and working.”

The church’s associate pastor, the Rev. Floyd D. Harris Jr. (pictured above), founded the Freedom School in 2015 based generally on the Freedom Schools of the 1960s Civil Rights movement. This school is a wrap-around program for West Fresno youth, offering cultural, educational, and job skills programs to at-risk students in grades K-12.

The urban farming group meets on Saturdays during the school year and twice a week during the summer, including at least three farmers’ markets held at the church. Children also perform public service projects and give produce to seniors and others in the neighborhood. In addition to agriculture, the Freedom School teaches tangible job skills such as construction, landscaping, janitorial work, photography, journalism, and video production.

Black Owned Farm
A flock of geese fly over Freedom School Fresno’s demonstration farm, located behind New Light for New Life Church of God.

Dr. Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, a small farms advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension Service in Fresno, occasionally works with community programs like the Freedom School. “It’s a small group, but they are filling an important role in the food security of our communities,” she said. “You’ve got projects like the Freedom School and the Sweet Potato Project [run by the West Fresno Family Resource Center] that are providing young people opportunities they might not have had in job development.”

Harris grew up in West Fresno and remains passionate about the need to lift up its low-income residents. One recent analysis rated Fresno, 8 percent of whose 527,000 residents are Black, the 10th-worst U.S. city for African-Americans to live in: the Black median income is $25,895, less than half the average white income in the city, and the Black poverty rate is 41.2 percent—one of the largest rates for any city—compared with a 13 percent white poverty rate. Fresno was the only West Coast metro area to make the list.

“When the children come [to the Freedom School], they see a sense of self, a sense of love, a sense of purpose, a sense of someone to care about me,” Harris said. “At the Freedom School, we are about character-building. We’re about discipline. We’re about having fun.”

Growing and Learning Year-Round

When Maria Else joined the Freedom School Board in 2017 as its secretary and curriculum coordinator, the urban farming program “was only supposed to be in the summer,” she said. But based on the children’s interest and enthusiasm, the demonstration farm extends year-round.

“Farming has so many parts to it,” Else said. “The kids all kind of gravitate toward different areas. And that’s what we want to teach them: Agriculture is not just planting. It is engineering and science and so many different aspects.”

Black Owned Farm
Marie Else manages Freedom School’s curriculum.

The curriculum covers a wide range of topics, too. In January and February, the Saturday classes focus on African-American culture and history. (While Fresno is a predominantly Latinx city, and the Freedom School is open to students of all backgrounds, its home in an African-American church guides much of its curriculum and student body.)

In the spring, several weeks of planting are followed by farm maintenance. During the summer, the program expands to twice a week, allowing time for harvesting, selling, and field trips. In September, the urban farmers prepare their entry for the Big Fresno Fair, where they’ll enter recipes such as watermelon chutney and craft projects like black-and-green potholders.

As the year winds down, the students plant and maintain winter crops while learning about nutrition and cooking. The young students have learned to prepare dishes such as stuffed peppers, black-eyed pea hummus, dill pickles, and their award-winning watermelon chutney. Healthy eating is a frequent topic.

“We talk to them about different diseases and illnesses that affect African-Americans, including high rates of diabetes and high blood pressure,” Else said.

They’re also getting exposure to the world of agricultural research. Last spring, researchers selected the Freedom School as one of three test sites to grow two types of black-eyed peas—one a U.S. commercial blend, and the other an aphid-resistant strain crossed with Nigerian lines from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture. The project included researchers Bao-Lam Huynh and Philip Roberts of U.C. Riverside, plus Nick Clark and Dahlquist-Willard, both with the U.C. extension service. Freedom School students helped plant, maintain, and harvest the peas. Dahlquist-Willard is analyzing their results.

“The Nigerian blend did not get one aphid on it, and they were planted right next to the American blend, which was covered in aphids,” Else reported. “We don’t know what kind of magic is in those Nigerian black-eyed peas.”

Changing the Narrative of Black Farmers

Arogeanae Brown, who grew up in Fresno and now works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), wrote her Virginia Tech master’s thesis about nine Black-led community-based agricultural programs, including Freedom School Fresno. She also devoted time to mentoring its students when she came home between semesters, talking with them about agricultural careers and introducing them to groups like 4-H and Future Farmers of America.

Black Owned Farm
“It’s very healing to get your hands in the dirt,” says board member Aline Reed.

Although the ag programs Brown studied welcome children of all races, Brown concluded, the emphasis on Black history helped African-American children thrive. “[The school’s] major focus was allowing students to have a knowledge of their history—where they come from and how the land is managed,” she said. “To get students interested in agriculture overall, we really have to dig up our history and understand slavery.”

Freedom School also strives to change the Black farmer stereotype, which is often cited as a barrier to entry for ag-related careers.

“Most Blacks have an impression of farming based on our history in this country,” said Fresno farmer Will Scott, citing a history of slavery, sharecropping, and Jim Crow laws. “But we need to get back into it from a new approach. We need to get young people of color back to the farm not just so they can grow their own food but so they can participate in the food system.”

The challenges facing Black farmers in Fresno are mirrored nationwide. In the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture, Black farmers accounted for just 1.4 percent of the country’s 3.2 million farmers. California reported 526 Black farm operators—.7 percent of the state’s nearly 78,000 total farms—of whom only 345 were principal operators in charge of day-to-day operations. In Fresno County alone, only 42 out of 5,683 farms reported African-American farmers.

Harris sees the Freedom School as one way to give African-American children in West Fresno the extra help they need to avoid becoming another statistic. Of more than 100 students to complete the program, several have received college scholarships, and two have completed USDA internships.

“God has favor on us,” Harris said, “because when we look at the success rate of our students—the grades are going up, the behaviors are getting better, they’re eating better, and they’re winning competitions. This is self-esteem building.”

Board Chair Reed said the Freedom School shows kids that agriculture is not just a pastime; “This is something you can devote a career to and make it your future,” she said.

Harris agreed. “When we can see our children walking across the stage with a second degree and a $100,000 job waiting on them at the USDA, that’s what we want to see,” he said. “We want these children to grow into healthy Black men and healthy Black women, and to change society to be a healthy place for them.”

 

Source: City Eats

/

Farmers Market on Wheels Brings Fresh Produce to Brooklyn Food Deserts

Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams and The Campaign Against Hunger, joined by Councilmember Alicka Ampry-Samuels, presented on Wednesday the “Fresh Vibes Mobile Market,” a retrofitted RV that will bring affordable produce, cooking and nutrition workshops combined with social services to underserved Brooklyn neighborhoods. 

Brooklyn Food Deserts
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams announced on Wednesday at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center. Photo credit: Office of Brooklyn Borough Eric Adams.

The initiative kicked off at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in East Flatbush, a community facing some of the highest levels of food insecurity in Brooklyn.

“Hippocrates said to ‘let food be thy medicine,’” said Adams. “The ‘Fresh Vibes Market’ is a vehicle for change, a fresh approach to combating diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, obesity and other chronic illnesses that are preventable and reversible through dietary changes. This RV will help us navigate Brooklynites in need through the challenges of accessing some of the basic services that are just in arms’ reach.”

The mobile unit will make three stops per day, five days a week to offer below-market price produce grown locally by TCAH and will accept benefit programs such as Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT); Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP), as well as Women, Infants and Children (WIC). 

Equipped with a cooktop and refrigeration, produce storage bins, a classroom and a benefits access area, the RV will be staffed with a chef-educator, an outreach worker and a SNAP specialist to offer cooking demonstration and workshops, as well as SNAP screenings, job referral services and even fitness classes.

The “Fresh Vibes Market” targets the most underserved Brooklynites including the elderly, new mothers, children, students, NYCHA residents and undocumented immigrants, allowing TCAH further expand its mission to increase access to healthy foods in high-need areas.

“TCAH’s core mission is to empower our neighbors to lead healthier, more productive and self-sufficient lives by increasing their access to nutritious food and related resources,” said Dr. Samuels, founder and executive director of TCAH. “Unlike other emergency feeding programs, our primary goal for this vehicle is to increase the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables by engaging families to make healthier eating choices and to introduce measures that can make a dent in high levels of chronic disease.”

(L-r:) Councilmember Ampry-Samuel, BP Adams and TCAH Executive Director Dr. Samuels on board the Fresh Vibes Market RV. Photo credit: CM Ampry-Samuel/ Twitter.

The launch of the mobile market also marks the beginning of numerous outreach campaigns, developed by TCAH in partnership with Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, to eliminate barriers to food access and social services in the community, officials announced. 

“We know that improving access to healthy foods and needed social services are key to one’s overall health,” said Enid Dillard, director of marketing and public affairs at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center. “We look forward to growing this partnership and impacting the lives of those who are food insecure within our communities.”

 

Source: BK Reader

/

The Ultimate List of Black Owned Farms & Food Gardens

Black owned farms make up less than 2 percent of all farms in the United States.

According to a recent report, Black farmers lost 80 percent of their farmland from 1910 to 2007, often because they lacked access to loans or insurance needed to sustain their businesses.

The report mentions the “long and well-documented history of discrimination against Black farmers by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture).”

It goes on to state that “The unequal administration of government farm support programs, crucial to protecting farmers from an inherently risky enterprise, has had a profound impact on rural communities of color.”

It is clear that that Black farmers need help now more than ever. We also need fresh produce they provide. Here is a list of Black owned farms and food gardens that you can support.

Black Owned Farms

Alabama

black owned farms
Darden Bridgeforth & Sons Farms/ Credit: News Courier

Darden Bridgeforth & Sons (Tanner, AL)

Bain Home Garden (Rehoboth, AL)

Binford Farms (Athens, AL)

Datus Henry Industries (Birmingham, AL )

Fountain Heights Farms (Birmingham, AL)

Hawkins Homestead Farm (Kinsey, AL)

Arizona

MillBrook Urban Farms

Millbrook Urban Farms (Phoenix, AZ )

Patagonia Flower Farms (Patagonia, AZ)

Project Rootz Farm (Phoenix, AZ)

California

black owned farms
Will Scott of Scott Family Farms/ Credit: AP Photo/Gosia Wozniacka

African American Farmers of California demo farm (Fresno, CA)

Farms to Grow, Inc. (Oakland, CA)

Corky’s Nuts (Northern CA)

Scott Family Farms (Fresno, CA)

Rancho de Rodney (Fresno, CA)

Connecticut

Root Life (New Haven, CT)

The DMV Area (DC, MD, VA)

black owned farms
Soilful City/Facebook

DC

Good Sense Farm

Good Sense Farm (Washington, DC)

Three Part Harmony (Washington, DC)

Soilful City (Washington, DC)

Sylvanaqua Farms (Washington, DC/Norfolk, VA)

MD

Cherry Hill Urban Garden

Cherry Hill Urban Garden (Cherry Hill, MD)

Deep Roots Farm (Brandywine, MD)

Dodo Farms (Brookeville, MD) 

Four Mother’s Farm (Princess Anne, MD)

Jenny’s Market (Friendship, MD)

The Bladensburg Farm (Riverdale, MD)

Tha Flower Factory  (Baltimore, MD)

VA

 

Haynie Farms (Reedville, VA)

Berrily Urban (Northern VA)

Botanical Bites Provisions (Fredericksburg, VA)

Boyd Farms (Nathalie VA)

Broadrock Community Garden (Richmond, VA)

Browntown Farms (Warfield, VA)

Brunswick Agriculture and Cultural Model Homesteading & Equestrian Center (Warfield , VA)

Carter Family Farm (Unionville, VA)

Cusheeba Earth: A Soil Culture Farm (Onley, VA)

Fitrah Farms (Central VA)

Go Greens Farms (Suffolk, VA)

Haynie Farm (Reedville, VA)

Mighty Thundercloud Edible Forest (Birdsnest, VA)

Mor-Cannabis (Scottsburg, VA)

Vanguard Ranch (Gordonsville, VA)

Verde Hemp Farms (Surry County, VA)

Florida

Griffin Organic Poultry

Harvest Blessing Garden (Jacksonville, FL)

Fisher Farms (Jonesville, FL)

Griffin Organic Poultry (Harthorne, FL)

Infinite Zion Roots Farms (Apopka, FL)

Ital Life Farm (Tampa, FL)

Marlow Farms (Kissimmee, FL)

Seed Mail Seed (West Palm Beach, FL)

Smarter By Nature LLC  (Tallahassee, FL)

Georgia

black owned farms
The Metro Atlanta Urban Farm /Facebook

Swanson Family Farm (Hampton, GA)

Southeastern African-American Farmers Organic Network (Atlanta, GA)

The Metro Atlanta Urban Farm (Royston, GA)

Semente Farm (Lithonia, GA)

Patchwork City Farms (Atlanta, GA)

Local Lands (Dublin, GA)

Miller City Farm (Fairburn, GA)

Nature’s Candy Farm (Atlanta, GA)

Noble Honey Company (Atlanta, GA)

Restoration Estates Farms (Haddock, GA)

Semente Farm (Lithonia, GA)

Tea Brew Farm (Central Georgia)

The Green Toad Hemp Farm (Metter, GA)

Truly Living Well (Atlanta, GA)

Illinois

AM Lewis Farms (Matteson, IL )

Black Oaks Center for Sustainable Living (Pembroke Township, IL)

Chi City Foods ( Chicago, IL)

Dusable City Ancestral Winery & Vineyards and Dusable City Botanical Farms

Roots & Vine Produce and Cafe (Chicago, IL)

Salem Hemp Kings (Salem, IL)

Urban Growers Collective (Chicago, IL)

Your Bountiful Harvest (Chicago, IL)

Kentucky

The Russellville Urban Gardening Project (Russellville KY)

Barbour Farm (Canmer, KY)

Ballew Estates (Madison Co, Kentucky)

Cleav’s Family Market Farm (Bonnieville, KY)

Slak Market Farm (Lexington, KY)

Louisiana

black owned farms
Harper Armstrong, owner of Armstrong Farms/ Facebook

Armstrong Farms (Bastrop, LA)

Cryer’s Family Produce (Mount Hermon, LA)

Grow Baton Rouge (Baton Rouge, LA)

Laketilly Acres (New Orleans, LA)

Mama Isis Farm & Market (Baton Rouge, LA)

Oko Vue Produce Co (New Orleans, LA)

Provost Farm (Iberia Parish, LA)

Massachusetts

Agric Organics Urban Farming (Springfield, MA)

Urban Farming Institute of Boston (Mattapan, MA)

Maine

Annabessacook Farm (Winthrop, Maine)

Michigan

D-TownFarm (Detroit, MI)

Mississipi

Earcine (Cine`) Evans, founder of Francis Flowers & Herbs Farm

34th Street Wholistic Gardens & Education Center (Gulfport, MS )

Francis Flowers & Herbs Farm(Pickens, MS)

John H. Moody Farm (Soso, MS)

Morris Farms (Mound Bayou, MS)

RD & S Farm (Brandon, MS)

Field Masters Produce (Tylerton, MS)

Foot Print Farms (Jackson, MS)

Missouri

black owned farm
Will Witherspoon, CEO of Shire Gate Farm

Shire Gate Farm (Owensville, MO)

New Hampshire

New England Sweetwater Farm and Distillery (Winchester, NH)

New Jersey

Free Haven Farms (Lawnside, NJ)

Hawk Mountain Earth Center (Newark, NJ )

Hyah Heights (Newark, NJ )

Jerzey Buzz (Newark, NJ )

Morris Gbolo’s World Crop Farms (Vineland, NJ)

Ward’s Farm (Salem, NJ)

New York

Karen Washington, Co-Owner of Rise & Root Farm./ Twitter

Rise & Root Farm (Chester, NY)

East New York Farms (Brooklyn, NY)

Brooklyn Rescue Mission Urban Harvest (Brooklyn, NY)

Soul Fire Farm (Petersburg, NY)

North Carolina

black owned farms
Mother’s Finest Urban Farms

Mother’s Finest Urban Farms (Winston Salem, NC)

Abanitu Farm (Roxboro, NC)

Fourtee Acres (Enfield, NC)

First Fruits Farm (Louisburg, NC)

Yellow Mountain Garden (Franklin, NC)

Pine Knot Farms (Hillsborough, NC)

Savage Farms (Durham, NC)

Green Heffa Farms (Liberty, NC)

black owned farms
Green Heffa Farms

Ohio

Rid-All Green Partnership (Cleveland, OH)

Oregon

Mudbone Grown (Portland, OR)

Rainshadow Organics (Sisters, OR)

Pennsylvania

The Philadelphia Urban Creators /Facebook

Mill Creek Farm (Philadelphia, PA)

The Philadelphia Urban Creators (Philadelphia, PA)

South Carolina

Fresh Future Farms/ Adam Chandler Photography

Fresh Future Farm (North Charleston, SC)

Gullah Farmers Cooperative (St. Helena Island, SC)

Gullah Farmers

Morning Glory Homestead Farm (St. Helena Island, SC) 

Rare Variety Farms (Columbia, SC)

SCF Organic Farms (Sumter, SC)

Texas

We Over Me Farm (Dallas, TX)

Jacobs’ Family Farms (Dallas, TX)

Bonton Farms (Dallas, TX)

Berkshire Farms Winery (Wilmer, TX )

Caney Creek Ranch (Oakwood, TX )

Fresh Life Organics (Houston, TX)

Lee Lover’s Clover Honey (Houston,TX)

Lettuce Live Urban Farm (Missouri City, TX)

Long Walk Spring Farm (New Boston, TX)

Uncommon Bees (Jasper, TX)

Vermont

Clemmons Family Farm

Clemmons Family Farm (Charlotteville, VT)

Strafford Creamery (Strafford, VT)

Washington State

black owned farms
Clean Greens Farms/ Camille Dohrn

Sky Island Farm (Humptulips, WA)

Clean Greens (Seattle, WA)

International

Mwanaka Fresh Farm Foods (London)

 

 

-Tony O. Lawson

Special thanks to Ark Republic, who’s  Black Farmers Index was used to update portions of this list!


Subscribe and Follow SHOPPE BLACK on Facebook, Instagram &Twitter


 Get your SHOPPE BLACK Apparel!

(Feature Image: Adam Chandler Photography)

/

A Black-Led Food Co-op Grows in Detroit

Malik Yakini came to cooperative economics as a student at Eastern Michigan University in the mid-1970s when he started a food-buying club. “I wasn’t thinking of myself as a food activist,” he says, “I was thinking of myself as an activist in the black liberation movement.”He viewed controlling food retail and production as important aspects of black self-determination, echoing the sentiments of organizations like the Nation of Islam and Detroit’s Shrine of the Black Madonna Church that emphasized owning farmland and running food businesses. Healthy food was important to Yakini, but so was making sure “the majority of people had their needs met as opposed to a system that concentrates wealth in the hands of a few.”

Now, after years of teaching and serving as a principal in Detroit schools, helping lead the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN) and starting D Town Farm on the city’s west side, Yakini and DBCFSN are planning a 34,000-square-foot food co-op, event space, and commercial kitchens in Detroit’s North End neighborhood. The project could serve as a proof-of-concept for the ability of co-ops to build wealth, create food security, and drive investment in underserved communities.

Some of the core members working on the Detroit People’s Food Co-op. (Denerio Watkins)

The project, which is called the Detroit Food Commons and contains the Detroit People’s Food Co-op, builds on a tradition of African-American business cooperatives that were championed by the likes of W.E.B. Dubois as tools for building economic and ultimately political power. Following slavery, African Americans formed co-ops for things like credit and farming to survive under a segregated and exploitative system. Unlike other businesses, co-ops are jointly owned enterprises, focused more on meeting collective needs than turning profits, although profit or “surplus” as it’s sometimes called is necessary to exist in a capitalist system. At the Detroit People’s Food Co-op, each owner will get one vote, creating equality between owners, at least in theory.

As well as delivering the benefits of a democratically-governed institution that sells healthy food, the Detroit co-op plans to create 20 to 40 jobs, provide opportunities for local entrepreneurs and stimulate other aspects of the local economy, like urban farms. It is part of a wave of similar projects in cities such as Flint, Michigan, and Dayton, Ohio, that have received support from charitable foundations. The Michigan Good Food Fund is helping this project, which is a partnership among Capital Impact Partners, the Fair Food Network, Michigan State’s Center for Regional Food Systems and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. This fund has invested over $12 million in food-based projects in the state, as well as providing technical assistance, and sees food co-ops as an especially effective way to build wealth in communities facing redlining and systematic disinvestment.“We prioritize our work with food cooperatives because we feel that the model allows for the creation of quality jobs and these jobs have low barriers to entry, especially within the food economy,” Olivia Rebanal from Capital Impact Partners said. “It creates employment opportunities for those that are most difficult to employ … We also see the cooperative model as a catalyst for community development. They empower leaders. They provide more equitable access to services like Malik’s project would do. They are more likely than non-cooperatives to recirculate local profits back into the community.”

The Detroit co-op would also employ black people in management positions—jobs that they have often been denied in Detroit grocery stores according to Yakini—helping build capacity for this kind of leadership.

Malik Yakini at the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network’s D-Town Farm. (Brian Allnutt/CityLab)

However, food co-ops and similar businesses still have to contend with the same challenges faced by other African-American businesses to obtain financing. “The exclusion of certain groups from accessing credit is no mistake,” Rebanal says. Some have understandably questioned the ability of co-ops to reverse the growing wealth gap between black and Latinx households and white ones. Rebanal says she believes it will take a while to reverse this trend and the onus needs to be on lenders as well as communities to create change. But she thinks her organization can help by both providing investment and technical assistance. Cooperative ownership itself also helps with financing—the cost to join the Detroit co-op is $200, although there is a matching fund for a number of low-income people to buy-in with just $100.

Additionally, the Detroit Food Commons possesses what Jean Chorazyczewski, a program director for the Fair Food Network, terms an “ambitious vision” that makes it appealing to foundations looking to drive change and could help it succeed at a time when other co-ops are struggling. Today, many are based on a model that was established in the 60s and 70s in which co-ops found a competitive advantage offering healthy, organic food. During the last few years, large grocery stores have moved into the organic sector, offering competitive prices and cutting into co-op profits, causing some long-established enterprises to close. One pitfall the Detroit People’s Food Co-op wants to avoid is the practice of giving discounts to members at the register, something Yakini says, “(is) giving away profit before you know if the store is profitable.” Instead, member-owners will receive periodic discounts and an equity-share at the end of the year.To remain competitive, co-ops have had to re-evaluate how they attract customers. The Detroit Food Commons hopes to establish itself as a destination for “hyper-local” produce and offerings from local food businesses, as well as hosting events. It also plans to draw income from its commercial kitchens. The co-op’s position near a major freeway and directly on Woodward Avenue—a major road that connects downtown Detroit with the wealthy suburbs of Oakland County— might also help. It could benefit from the boom in Detroit’s downtown and Cass Corridor neighborhoods while also serving residents of the predominantly black areas of the city outside downtown.

Malik Yakini addressing a meeting for the Detroit People’s Food Co-op. (Denerio Watkins)

“One of the challenges we’re faced with is that the neighborhood is changing,” Yakini says. “And co-ops, no matter how thoughtful we are, help to spur gentrification. And so, we’re thinking about ways that we can circulate wealth within the existing community.” They’re also trying to make themselves more accessible to historical residents by rewriting some of the rules of the co-op playbook, offering what they call “clean conventional” products, which will make up 25 percent of the store. They’re coming up with their own standards for these more affordable foods that will exclude ingredients like BHT and artificial colors, while also accounting for other things like labor practices.

Outreach is also a top priority. Yakini has been in contact with a number of co-ops across the country including the Renaissance Community Co-op in Greensboro, North Carolina, which initially had trouble attracting shoppers because residents had become so accustomed to leaving the neighborhood to buy groceries. Those that Yakini spoke with at Renaissance and elsewhere also stressed the importance of hiring a competent general manager. “Food retail is not easy,” Rebanal says. “The margins are low, the waste is high, you need to turn volume. It does take an expert to be able to navigate towards success.”The terminology itself presents another obstacle. “I know that for some co-ops in primarily black communities, the word ‘co-op’ is even exclusive,” Rebanal says. For its part, the Detroit co-op is trying to recruit 1,000 members before a prospective late 2020 opening, which will help with both outreach and opening costs. So far, it has signed up 271 members.

Although connecting with black Detroiters is a priority, Yakini makes clear that the goal is to create a welcoming environment. “That’s kind of a delicate balance that we’re walking because we definitely believe in black self-determination and black leadership and this is black-led … And the white people who are working with us—I think for the most part—have an awareness of the racial dynamic and the need for black leadership, and are trying to function in a way that helps promote that. But we don’t want to frame it in such a way that everybody doesn’t feel welcome to shop there.”

After ten years of work, Yakini and the various co-op steering committees are still deep in the planning process for the store, doing things like “detail/retail” planning to project the income from various store departments, and deciding how much space to devote to each one. They’re also working on the building’s construction in partnership with the non-profit Develop Detroit—which is also building housing in conjunction with the project—and that work is all contingent on permitting and the often unpredictable machinations of city government.At the end of this grueling process, Yakini hopes to have created not only a community hub for food and education in Detroit, but a replicable model for communities elsewhere, that among other things “causes funders to be more thoughtful about how funding and finance is deployed in majority black urban areas.”

Rebanal believes this is already happening, noting a dozen other projects that have been inspired by Malik’s mentorship. Although the circumstances in Detroit are unique, this project is still expected to change the conversation around cooperative enterprise. “We think the model is aspirational,” Rebanal says, “and we see it happening in many other communities.”

 

Source: City Lab

/

Black Farmers Were Intentionally Sold Fake Seeds

Black farmers are taking legal action after they say a seed company purposely sold them bad soy beans.

The farmers think it’s racially motivated and an attempt to push black farmers out of business and out of the industry all together.

“They were effectively duped,” said Thomas Burrell, president of the Black Farmers and Agriculturists Association.

black farmers

The association filed a class action lawsuit alleging Stine Seed Company sold fake seed to black farmers on purpose. The lawsuit comes after a bad year for the soybean crop—one that nearly put some farmers out of business.

“It’s a double whammy for these farmers,” Burrell said. “It accelerates their demise and effectively it puts them out of business.”

The group thinks the company targeted the farmers at the annual Mid-South Farm and Gin Show held in Memphis.

“We bought nearly $90,000 worth of seed” from Stine Seed, farmer David Hall said. “It’s been known to produce high yield, so you expect it, when you pay the money for it, to produce the high yields.”

At first the farmers say they thought they were doing something wrong. But testing on the seeds found zero germination. Samples show rotten molded seed —not the certified seed they were promised.

“No matter much rain Mother Nature gives you, if the germination is zero the seed is impotent.”

Now, these farmers say they plan to hold the company accountable and they’ll fight legally for what they believe they deserve.

The organization says they did allow the company to walk the soybean fields as well and do their own testing which, according to them, returned with same results.

Myron Stine of Stine Seed Company responded to the suit Tuesday, saying:

“The lawsuit against Stine Seed Company is without merit and factually unsupportable. Stine takes seriously any allegations of unlawful, improper, or discriminatory conduct and is disturbed by the baseless allegations leveled against the company. Upon learning of these claims, the company took swift action to conduct an internal investigation, which has not revealed any evidence that would support these allegations. Stine intends to vigorously defend itself against this meritless lawsuit and has filed a motion to dismiss. Our focus is on continuing to serve all our customers with the highest degree of integrity and respect that are the bedrock of our company’s values.”

 

Source: WREG