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'Food sovereignity' means having enough fresh food. For a group of veterans, that means urban farming

DAVID F. ASHTON - We found Black Food Sovereignty Coalition Co-Director Eddie Hill working at the Black Futures Farm in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood. Instead of complaining about any "fresh-food desert" in their community, several men – all military veterans – are taking matters quite literally into their own hands, by growing crops in plots they call their "Black Futures Farm".

Their self-contained "farm" is sited within the Learning Garden Laboratory property, in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood.

"We broke ground three months ago here, but we've been preparing for this since October," remarked the Director and Founder of Black Futures Farm, Malcolm Hoover.

"Black Futures Farm is a program of the Black Food Sovereignty Coalition, which is a group of Black-led organizations centered around the subject of 'food sovereignty'," Hoover told THE BEE. "To us, 'food sovereignty' means being in control of your own food supply.

"We started the organization as a direct response to the public health crisis – long before COVID-19 – that African-Americans continue to experience, by having low quality food; with especially limited access to high-quality food at reasonable prices," explained Hoover. "Black people, for the most part, are not as economically empowered to buy food at a Whole Foods and New Seasons store, for example."

One of those working on the group's land is the Co-Director of the Black Food Sovereignty Coalition, Eddie Hill, a U.S. Army veteran. In addition to having earned a degree, and having worked as an urban planner/designer, Hill described himself as a "mid-career, part-time farmer" who has also taught agriculture.

"Our farm is a visual representation of what the City of Portland expresses in their 'Climate Action Plan', and in their goal of having 'access to safe food' – this is all part of that system, but is not [found] on grocery shelves," Hill said. "This gives people the opportunity to interact with the nature of food."

This particular location is ideal, Hill observed, because partners at the site include Portland State University, the Oregon State University Extension Service, Portland Public Schools, and the Multnomah County Master Gardeners program. "Here we have a 'cross-pollination' convergence that's about teaching people about gardening and farming," he quipped.

"Helping people who live in the city to visualize what a small farm might look like [is part of what] brings in new people to interact with each other around food, while sharing education and stories. That's what makes it really nice for me," Hill added.

Starting this month, the Black Futures Farm expects to start fulfilling CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares for investors who will receive a box of from seven to eleven vegetables or fruits every other week, throughout the summer.

To learn more about the program, or sign up for a CSA share, see their website: www.blackfutures.farm


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