Urban Food Sovereignty is Our Goal

Reader Contribution by Eugene Cooke
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In this season, the fruits swell fast and ripen in the heat. Each time I sit to write this blog my mind is redirected by current social events of our time. Do any of them connect to food? Does any aspect of human behavior not relate to how we feed ourselves? Still, with every ripening harvest of karmic fruit, I am challenged with how to write something that is useful and relevant.

We are witnessing the collapse of economies and violent fear attacks toward black, working poor of America. Simultaneously, there is a worldwide movement for clean local food, veganic living and GMO labeling. These concerns are often presented as projects for the privileged to advocate for.

Do the citizens of Greece find themselves thinking about the real benefits of small-scale urban farms as their banks close and the stores empty? Are the revolting citizens in United States cities considering the strategic impact of local food production during times of martial law and civic rebellion against police terrorism?

Grow Where You Are

Grow Where You Are is a collective that remains on the front line actively encouraging food sovereignty through urban awakening. We create mini-farms and fruit orchards in communities where our members live and work. We willingly sacrifice time, money and emotional comfort to complete the community prototypes so vital to educating us about resilience.

Our collective is majority women and people of color. This informs our service and demands that we be intentional and compassionate. So, as the world turns and the strange fruits drop worldwide, we are reflecting on our impacts. This blog post will outline some of our core projects and outreach methods in an effort to share best practices for developing local food systems in communities that are most in need. Health problems, economic barriers and systemic racialized brutality can all be addressed by assisting people with the skills to recognize and activate the existing resources required to gain some level of food sovereignty.

“Food security” and “food access” are terms used by the corporate world to give themselves license to dump old, processed foods into underserved communities through food banks or inject funds into start-up businesses from outside the community to transform corner stores. All of these plans maintain the current status of communities of color as consumers.

We aim to restore production in our neighborhoods by utilizing existing land, people and funds that are allocated for food access projects.  This is an opportunity and a challenge to corporations and foundations to direct their money toward initiatives that are directed by growers on the ground.

Building Urban Mini-Farms

Our Food and Faith project has been successful in partnering with land owning faith-based institutions to install and manage urban mini-farms that feed the community and have the potential to generate wealth. Nationwide, there are thousands of churches and faith-based institutions that own land in urban areas that are ready for a drastic transformation. This land can be the catalyst for a full revival of health and consciousness after it is made productive again. Residents can be trained, church members can be fed and meaningful relationships can be born.

These ground-level community relationships built on the foundation of serving one another are fundamental to decreasing community violence from the police and residents. When the youth can gain skills in urban agriculture, their level of self confidence rises dramatically as they become essential food producers for their family and neighbors.

The life skills that we train folks in at our farm sites not only build character; they also offer people a sense of stability as we all face some very significant social changes ahead. The economic collapse in Greece is a clear signal that the practice of fractional reserve banking has no happy ending.

The Virtues of a More Plant-Based Diet

As economies continue to disintegrate globally, the environmental impacts of our toxic, meat-based food system become vividly clear. We are in a time where it is imperative that we all move toward a plant-based lifestyle and veganic growing practices to source nutrient-dense foods. Veganic growing is free of pesticides, chemical fertilizers as well as the use of blood meal, bone meal and other animal inputs.

Amazing results can be achieved with plant-based compost and agro-ecological practices. As you begin to examine the current western consumption of meat the direct correlation to all the chronic diseases is apparent. What’s more is the addiction to high-meat consumption has environmental impacts globally, as well as locally.

In the film Cowspiracy, there are some terrifying and often concealed statistics that point to industrial animal farming as the cause of more toxic greenhouse gases than all forms of transportation combined. The wasted water in commercial agriculture that is causing tremendous drought in California and other agricultural regions of the world is due to the mono-cropping of animal feed and the water usage for satisfying the thirst of unnaturally large populations of large cows and pigs living in factory farms where there are no trees or green vegetation to cool them. This cruel treatment is wasteful and unnecessary.

Agro-ecology and Regrowing Healthy Neighborhoods

We recently hosted our second vegan community feasts where we fed over 150 people a gourmet meal for free at our Good Shepherd Agro-Ecology Center in Southwest Atlanta. This amazing food production site is becoming a community gathering space where folks meet one another and develop trust which increases the safety of our community. The Agro-Ecology Center is located on the grounds of Atlanta Good Shepherd Community Church and is a creative way to achieve the mission of serving the community as we work to educate folks on the impacts of their food choices.

These examples combine methods and approaches to spark the interest about the value of controlling our own food supply, as well as making the move toward a nutritious plant-based diet. At this time, we may have little control over fiat money systems or even the violent terrorism from the police and our own abused community members, so we must find ways to stabilize our food supply locally and begin to build the community connections that will quite possibly save our lives.

There is a tremendous amount of value in the strategically forgotten urban neighborhoods of this nation, and that is why there is such a push from outside communities to reclaim them. We as the current and long-time residents must recognize and add value to these underused pieces of land and begin to regrow our health, wealth and love around them.

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