The Farm team is still excited about the April 21st episode of Next Bite, a new podcast about the future of food. Our very own Germaine Jenkins is featured discussing her and Fresh Future Farm's work, cultivating the next generation of Black farmers. Here's the link to the podcast, https://buff.ly/3xedbCa The transcript of the conversation is added here below:
This is NextBite, a three-part series from Chobani about changemakers on the farm, in the kitchen and in the fight for better food access. I’m Katie Wiggin a producer at two brand Studio where we help find the people who are reimagining the future of food and today I'm so happy to introduce Germaine Jenkins from Fresh Future Farm in South Carolina.
My name is Germaine Jenkins and I'm Chief Farm Officer at Fresh Future Farm and I love liberation and justice that comes in the form of a farm. Germaine’s team grows a huge variety of crops from mustard greens to pears to sugar cane on less than an acre of land next to what used to be an elementary school in the Chicora/Cherokee neighborhood of North Charleston. There's lots of folks who walked to and from some of the stores, a lot of pedestrians and bike riders, folks doing work in their yard and lots of kids playing as well.
Germaine lives 5 minutes away from the farm. After moving to the neighborhood she realized that a lot of the families there didn't have access to the affordable nourishing food that they wanted. Germaine recognized that this problem is systemic. So she and her team grow and sell produce, prepared meals and groceries directly to local families on a sliding scale. They’ve also donated food, PPE, rent and utility support during the pandemic. They teach neighbors how to grow their own crops and they work with other Black farms in the region to cultivate the next generation of Black farmers. Germain’s vision for food access also comes from personal experience. I'll let her tell the story.
Before I actually started to put seeds in the ground, I didn’t know how to feed myself without the assistance of grocery stores and pantries, back when I wasn't working. All of these places that are impacted by food apartheid; it is easily and readily accessible to you if it comes out of a gas station or a dollar store or fast food restaurants. You know as an adult with two young children of my own, I noticed very clearly that we weren't having as many vegetables on a plate as I wanted to be able to serve my kids because I was going to school full-time and didn't have the money to buy the groceries that I wanted and I sort of remember like standing up and looking at them, maybe in the kitchen, and just saying when we leave here we're going to move to a house and the house is going to have a garden. Now I have gone through the Master Gardener program at my job at the Lowcountry Food Bank. And my goal was to specifically get more produce in the door to community members so sometimes that meant that we were gleaning vegetables from local farms. There was one time and in particular where it was a rainy day and I was out there by myself harvesting squash and as far as I can walk there were just crops of squash everywhere and I'm just hopping over these rows looking for squash for me to pack and then take back to the food bank. I just noticed my shoes and my pants getting like muddy and wetter as the day went on. But the more I harvested the more I wanted to harvest. I said maybe I’ll do 30 more minutes and then I'll do 30 more in like 4 hours later...then I thought to myself like a normal person would probably leave right now but I just I wasn't uncomfortable. I just, I felt in my happy place. I've not felt that way before and you’re just thinking about the folks cooking up that squash. Folks that are served by food banks and pantries and you know that hole where the vegetables were supposed to be on my plate is full. I just stayed out there longer and longer to get more done.
People usually think of an urban farm as something that is on or in a building. But it feels like either you walk out of the city and into the country when you come to Fresh Future Farm. It’s just very lush and green and very much outdoors. If you were to walk through the farm the first thing that you see after you like went up the ramp into the farm space, there’d be like a very big Asian pear tree and a white fence with images of some of the people who inspired me; George Washington Carver, Masanobu Fukuoka, Ruth Stout and then Will Allen. They were outside of the box thinkers and doers. And behind that fence sugarcane and elderberries and then a row like peaches and pear trees and all of the trees on the right side of you are right behind the building that is our farm store. There are rectangular beds of red kale, mustards, sugarcane and banana trees that are starting to put off their first leaves of spring.
Where we are in North Charleston like the wind is blowing so the crops are blowing and you could have the sense of like peach blossoms or citrus blossoms. I remember pruning trees a couple weeks ago and folks walking past and saying oh look there’s mustards and there’s collards over there and there is kale. So what normally happens when people who've never been there is they just spend a lot of time just kind of surveying the whole like .8 acres that we managed. And just trying to take all of that and like where am I? And that is when we get the questions and the comments about how rich and lush and like welcoming and calming that space is.
We are an urban farm but there is so much knowledge in rural areas so I'm kind of just like when I went to harvest that squash now it's time for us to go out to the country and harvest the information and uphold those elders that have it. And what's important is that we're capturing this information and knowledge that will be lost, the wisdom and knowledge, so that we can always like hold on to it and make sure that we're kind of keeping up and living up to the legacy that our elders leave for us.
There was a time in this country where black people owned 16 million acres of land and most of that land went towards growing food and feeding families. Here we are in a place where a lot of people had to leave that land behind where land was stolen and it disconnected folks from feeding themselves. When I think about the future what’s key is to me to be able to reverse this distance from agriculture. Just making the information and the possibilities as accessible as possible. Whether that means you're tasting the food that we grow or you're somebody who watches a video where we show you how we plant sugar cane or somebody that interns with us and decides they want to start their own farm but I don't think about in numbers I think about it as limitlessness. I can't even imagine what others will be able to do because of the example that they'll see from us and just so many other Black led farms across the country.
You know when we first moved into our house and started farming, my son who was like seven at the time, he would like hop off his bike if I asked him to help me harvest cabbage. He would get it and then get right back on that bike and start going. Fast forward like 10 or so years ago and now that eight year old is our Farm Manager and my eldest is our Creative Manager. The impact that FFF has had on my granddaughter we have so many pictures of her just trying to smash a farm fresh peach in her face like as soon as she starts to talk and if anybody asks her the question where the food comes from she is probably going to say glamma is growing some over there and those peaches are really good.
In 50 years my granddaughter will be 52 and what I hope is different when she has grandchildren of their own is that everything that they need is within walking distance from their home. That she never has to worry about her children or grandchildren being able to put quality food on their plate. Like, where you can walk and you can just harvest it and eat it as you're walking as part of your day-to-day experience. And that what they know is joy and security and comfort and not oppression.