Tuesday, August 22, 2017

OWN THE LAND: BUILD COMMUNITY WEALTH


“Revolution is based on land. Land is the basis of all independence. Land is the basis of freedom, justice, and equality.” - Malcolm X-1963.


Imagine young people, along with low-income residents owning some of the 3,500 + vacant lots in the City of St. Louis. Let us also imagine them growing food together and selling it at local farmer’s markets. What possibilities may come if there were an industrial kitchen and food manufacturing plant in North St. Louis? Visualize a brand, like Del Monte or Glory Foods comprised of youth and local residents growing food and making their own food products? Think of the economic benefits of stores, schools, hospitals, restaurants, bakeries, and other entities, here and across the country, buying food and/or food products from land-owners in North St. Louis.

This is the juncture where imagination meets reality. This year, SPP has collaborated with a new North St. Louis collective of food-related nonprofits working primarily in the Greater Ville area. This cooperative, the North City Food Hub (NCFH), is working to build community resources that include a community café, fresh food market, an industrial kitchen to develop food products, a small business incubator, a farmer's market and classes in horticulture, small business, land procurement and product development and distribution -- all in the Greater Ville area of North St. Louis.




This is a game-changer. It's a practical vision of a large collective of nonprofits and North St. Louis land-owners empowered through food. The Sweet Potato Project's role is to bring as many low-income (age-appropriate) students and adults into the process as possible. Land ownership, we believe, is the key to community ownership. Not only will this collective educate young people in horticulture and entrepreneurism, it offers a practical approach to addressing unemployment, neighborhood decay, food deserts, nutritional needs and neighborhood revitalization. 


 




 Some of the members of the North City Food Hub
This initiative has the potential of creating a new, all-inclusive model of community development. Because everyone eats, there’s opportunity to grow other spin-off businesses. For example, Tower Grove Farmer’s Market generates about $2 million dollars annually in one neighborhood. People visit to buy fresh food but they stay to enjoy the coffee shops, restaurants and bars that have seen increased patronage from foodies. Food-related opportunities (trucking, security, restaurants, and bars) can see similar benefits from a North St. Louis food system.


Simply put, people who own the land have a personal stake in protecting and utilizing the land. This summer, students received lessons from St. Louis University professors in small business development, land-ownership, marketing, branding and more. Some are ready to become land-owners. With your support, we help neighborhood youth and adults build gardens and participate in a North St. Louis food-based economic engine early next year.

Good Life Growing, a member of the North City Food Hub, will open a grocery store in the Old North Neighborhood soon. Click here to read story

There's much work to do to bring this vision into fruition. We're inviting politicians, city officials, churches, community organizations and anyone with the expertise, desire to participate and passion to help us rebuild communities and empower people through food. 

If you're interested, email our executive director, Sylvester Brown at sylvesterbj@gmail.com and we'll make sure you're contacted about upcoming meetings and events. 




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