Alternative Economies on a path towards equitable development

Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking on a panel at the 3rd Annual Equitable Development Conference hosted by ONEDC and the Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service.

After an incredibly inspiring and thought-provoking opening interview between Eugene Puryear and Bill Fletcher, Jr. our panel was tasked with answering the question: Black Lives Matter: Moment or Movement (and what does that have to do with equitable development?) Umm… are we here all day or just one hour?

I am not the kind of person who stands on a podium and presents a comprehensive plan to change our cities’ economic landscape, let alone the nation or the world! However, obviously farmers and especially Black farmers have a lot of experience when it comes to creating alternative economies that exist outside the framework of the transitional capitalist model. If anyone understands how devastating it can be to have a loan officer not call you back on time and otherwise ignore your needs to borrow money to pay for seeds during the proper planting window, it’s Black farmers. Without an on-time loan from my “bank” I too would be a farmer without a crop.

I didn’t invent the CSA (community supported agriculture) model, but I sure as heck do use it to replace that old model where reliance on lenders and institutionalized systems are rife with racism. It is not the only way that people can support our farm as well as the other farms in our co-op, but it is an essential one (financially speaking) to get us started each season.

Our first harvest of the season is this Thursday, April 7th but we won’t really get into the main harvest until May. However, by the end of March I’ve already bought 85% of the seeds, plants, and supplies I need plus brought on board the three part-time folks I need with me in the fields making sure we can deliver vegetables by April 7th. The customers who come tomorrow to pick up their first share have given our farm an interest free loan, and for that I’m grateful. But it is just a loan- you’ll get that back and more in vegetables through the end of the season! It’s a serious commitment on both sides; certainly more than a transaction. You’ve “joined”, so now we are part of the same community, you might even say part of the same family. None of us is changing the world, but we made a ripple.

A post script: a lot of folks have mentioned to me that you want to join our CSA but you are low income. I say: welcome to the club! Farmers are all low-income so I know what you are talking about. My suggestion- pool money with friends. Share your share, and the meals you’ll make too. That’s what we do in my household. Also, for anyone who wants to use your federal and state issued checks, cards or produce plus dollars, check us out at the petworth farmers market on Saturdays starting May 7th.