It's Called Produce

Truly Living Well Farm

I have witnessed community gardens and farmers markets used as tools to begin the process of changing a community. The outcome of this transformation often depends on who are the stakeholders directing the change and where is the source of the support for the garden, mini farm or farmer’s market. What we see in Atlanta is that gardens and markets initiated and controlled by community members in the neglected communities in Southwest Atlanta receive very little support from funders and advocacy groups. While gardens and markets in the very same neighborhoods are funded, staffed and promoted when they are installed by outside foundations and management groups. In both cases local food is being grown and marketed to ‘underserved’ communities of color. But in the case of resident lead efforts there is little support and no protection when faced with eviction or ‘redevelopment’.

read more

Talking About “The Table Spread” with Andrew Huggins—Philadelphian, Former Black Panther, and Blind

Written by Pendle Marshall-Hallmark

Andrew observes that there is still a deep stigma in the black community associated with farming and agricultural work. Because of its connection to slavery, “many people see it as a sort of weakness”, he explains, “Something they’re above doing.” He worries that many poor people of color are not aware of the danger in consuming foods that contain GMO’s and other processed elements. Andrew believes, and preaches fervently, that there is power in deciding to grow your own food, and that the process of gardening is therapeutic. He wishes that more people in his community associated gardening with self-sufficiency and strength, rather than subjugation and vulnerability.

read more

Amy Laura Cahn Testifies at City Council on "The State of the Environment"

Today, I will provide for you a brief update on flooding and extreme weather. This is an issue of equity and environmental justice. It is our most vulnerable residents, particularly those with limited economic resources, who are most at risk from extreme weather...In neighborhoods such as East Germantown and Eastwick, Philadelphia residents know this increase in flooding events firsthand.

read more

Are you or your org guilty of Trickle-Down Community Engagement?

A while ago I was talking to a friend (another Executive Director, since all my regular friends have abandoned me because I make jokes about compostable sticky dots), and he said, “Have you noticed that everyone is getting paid to engage us communities of color except us communities of color?”

Sigh. Yes, I have noticed. I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and have come up with a term to describe it: Trickle-Down Community Engagement (TDCE). This is when we bypass the people who are most affected by issues, engage and fund larger organizations to tackle these issues, and hope that miraculously the people most affected will help out in the effort, usually for free.

read more

Gardening as Community Power

Written by Kirtrina Baxter & Nicole Sugerman

With all the civil unrest around the brutality and unjust policing of communities of color, people are looking around their neighborhoods to see just how they can make a difference. People are asking their community leaders, “what are the next steps for justice?” and thinking about strategies to gain community adhesion and sovereignty. The topic of community power and how to attain it, is chief among concerns.

Creating a community garden can be a strong force for community power. Not only in the radical act of producing one’s own food, a necessary requirement to live. Or in the ability a garden has to bring unity to a neighborhood through a shared space of positive work. But inherent in the process of determining how land is used in your neighborhood, communities can help to build community power! Now let me explain.

The process of creating a community garden has a few major steps that are important to consider: choosing a particular site (hopefully along with other residents), and garnering approval of this site as a space for gardening and community gatherings from neighbors, council people, and owners. Then, community members must work together to create guidelines and protocols to ensure a functional, communicative garden. The process of gaining approval and securing land for the garden is where we start to build power.

In order to be successful at creating a long-term community garden, engaging residents in the area in creating the plan for that space is essential. It creates a symbiotic relationship between neighbors towards a common goal that could benefit everyone. Building trust, accountability and respect for the opinions and creativity of all, is a large part of this process. In order for this to be successful, first, participants should be willing to do the hard introspective work of breaking down whatever stereotypes and biases that would make it difficult for them to work with a diverse group of people. This does not just relate to ethnicity but to religion, sub-culture, sexual preference, gender, and class. This process in itself allows for personal growth that adds to one’s own sense of power.

Second, creating processes to work together and create strategy toward the goal of getting the land builds cohesion among the group and power in your community. Things to be considered are, what skills do people bring to the table and how can those skills be applied to the agreed upon strategy? Communities must plan tactics to further the group’s strategy, this works to create power through research and knowledge sharing and advances collaboration and action.

read more

Where Social Justice and Sustainability Meet

MLK Day DARE March
photo by: Brandon Tate Brown

Written by Nic Esposito

Even though I’m a commentator who has a platform to reach people with my thoughts and opinions on sustainability, I would be remiss not to talk about recent events in Ferguson, Staten Island and Cleveland where shootings by police have once again revealed the tensions that exist between law enforcement and communities of color. This is something we should all be talking about, and I would like to look specifically at how these events, as well as the tension between police and communities of color across the country, pose a huge challenge for the overall sustainability sector.

read more


Vallecito: Lands Recovered from narco-traffickers in 2012 lie in the heart of Garifuna territories.

A major element of OFRANEH’s organizing and advocacy is to recover and consolidate the 2,500 acres of Vallecito on the North coast, and transform it into a center for Garifuna renewal. Narcos, interested in the strategic characteristics of the land for clandestine drug running – space for a runway, a hidden creek to the sea, and remote location – had invaded the legally titled Garifuna lands. In 2012, the community reoccupied its land with drumming and ceremony, despite narco and paramilitary threats and automatic rifle fire. Since then, however, a portion of the land has been re-invaded by campesinos, presumably with the support of narcos.

read more