With urban agriculture trending across the United States, African-Americans make up only 2 percent of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) farmers. Our communities are highly sought out for urban farming, yet marked as food deserts.
Today, agriculture is a $14.5 billion industry.
Let that sink in—$14.5. billion. Yes, billions with a “b.” And African-American farmers only make up 2 percent of the population who benefits economically from that $14.5 billion.
Meanwhile, African-Americans lead the nation with health issues such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and Vitamin D deficiency — all of which can be prevented through agriculture.
Further, we own very few to no supermarkets or owner-operated farmers markets.
Even after all the progressive movements, our community has embarked upon, we are still not seated at one of the major economic tables in our nation. Interesting, because it was a table built by African-Americans — the table of agriculture and hospitality.
With the birth of the civil rights movement our communities became integrated, we begin to explore other opportunities leaving behind the one opportunity that carried many of us to and through these now partially cracked doors. We left behind the land that our great fathers and mothers cultivated to advance us in today society.
So while the number of African-American farmers has grown since 2007, it is still an endangered occupation within our communities.
Some may debate this is due to the Post Traumatic Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. Some argue that agriculture is the breakthrough from the generational downfalls of poverty and health.
So, again I ask how many of us today are willing to go back to the fields of our ancestors to heal generational curses?
As stated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his written 1967 text, “Where do we go from here? Chaos or Community?”
“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late.
“This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action…. this may well be mankind’s last chance to choose between chaos or community.”
I choose “community,” you should choose “community,” WE ALL SHOULD CHOOSE “COMMUNITY.” In choosing community, we are claiming our seats..yes seats at the table. We are going back to the soil and healing our families, securing our legacy. And most importantly we are building a nation that is stronger together.
Agriculture is not an occupation of our forefathers and mothers. Its an occupation of here and now. With the rise of urban farming projecting to become a 6.2 billion dollar business by 2023, our communities can thrive again: teaching our children to be self-sustaining and allowing the soil to once again work in our favor.
According to The Ecology Center here are ten effective was urban farming/agriculture can effectively benefit our communities:
Reduce carbon emissions. By localizing produce, urban farms cut down on the significant amount of fossil fuel consumption necessary to transport, package, and sell food.
The average meal has traveled 4,200 miles just to get to your table. Urban agriculture helps consumers reduce their “footprint” by providing them with the opportunity to purchase food that was grown within their community.
Innovative techniques. As city spaces lack the wide-open fertile grounds of traditional farming methods, urban farmers are tasked with finding creative solutions to dealing with challenges like waste, space, resources, and energy.
Because of this, more efficient innovations are created to improve the quality and quantity of food that can be produced with the least amount of resources
3. Job creation. From window box herb gardens to large community spaces, these farms create opportunities to involve the community.
Urban farms create job (and volunteer) opportunities in big cities, where poverty and hunger are often persistent issues.
An increase in small businesses stimulates the local economy and supports the community by creating jobs right where people live.
Economic growth. By virtue of their proximity to consumers, urban farms stimulate the local economy by circulating income throughout the region.
Without a complicated distribution network, farmers are more connected to their market and able to adapt quickly to demand, maximizing profit.
In addition, many of these organizations are structured in a way that brings additional benefit to the community and support to low-income populations by stabilizing food costs and in many cases, offering discounted or free produce.
Community building. Gardens create more than healthy, delicious food. Urban agriculture brings people together with a common interest — food.
The overall health of a community is benefited by increasing its capacity to create an environment that truly sustains its residents.
Most urban farming projects require a high level of social organization, giving many individuals in the community a vested interest in its success.
Public health. Increasing populations of people in cities suffer from malnutrition and a variety of other diet-related health issues.
Bringing nutritious food to local communities has many direct health benefits, including reducing the risk of harmful conditions like heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and more.
Involving individuals in the garden itself provides an opportunity for exercise and a deeper connection to agriculture.
Food quality. Smaller scale, local markets provide the opportunity for farmers to foster more unique varieties of produce. These farms preserve biodiversity by cultivating heirloom varieties or those with lower shelf-stability.
The proximity and connectedness to market allow for fresh, nutritious produce to become available to communities that have never had access to this in the past.
Food security. While there may not be a “shortage” of food in most regions, issues of access are absolutely prevalent, especially in urban areas.
Urban agriculture helps to correct this by reducing the price of healthy food by eliminating the middleman and increasing the opportunity for community members in need to participate in the growing of this food.
Many urban farms also adopt charitable models in an effort to support communities in need through direct donation or by providing either discounted or free produce.
Education. Urban agriculture addresses another issue inherent throughout our current food culture — a disconnection to where our food comes from. By involving children and adults alike in education around sustainable, local agriculture, farmers increase the health of our future food systems.
Green space. Lastly, agriculture in cities provides something obvious — more green space. This contributes to the health of city ecosystems in a variety of ways.
Greenery adds aesthetic appeal, reduces runoff from precipitation, provides restful spaces for the community, and counters the heat island effect by fixing carbon through photosynthesis.”
The time is now to begin to look at our communities through a new and innovative lens. Understanding, that we hold a valuable key to the revitalization of our future but also to again establish our rightful place in our country’s food system, agribusiness, and hospitality industry.
So, pull up a chair and join me at the table of growth and abundance. We welcome you.