One of my favorite passages in the Bible comes from the prophet, Zechariah, who was recorded to say, “do not despise the day of small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” As one that is given to grand visions and big dreams, this scripture has been a helpful reminder for me to appreciate the small steps and early stages of great works. It has taken a certain kind of patience and degree of focus like I’ve never experienced to apply this wisdom to our journey with The Black Church Food Security Network. While I can see in my head with great detail what a Black-owned food system anchored by Black churches could do for the varied interests of our community, I’ve learned to appreciate the careful cultivation of every little step in that direction…the small beginnings and so many of you have been right there with us.
The Network took a step. I bought sweet potatoes that had been grown on the ancestral land of Harriet Tubman by Black Dirt Farm Collective on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. I took them to my cousin Sonya who makes the best sweet potato pies this side of heaven! My mother helped to box those pies and I delivered them to those who bought them in the spirit of partnership.
The Network took another step. We bought 800 dozen eggs from Black farmers in eastern North Carolina. I still remember meeting Sister Maxine for the pickup. We carefully moved crates of eggs from her vehicle to mine and I drove below the speed limit all the way back up I-95. We sold those eggs in Baltimore to members of our church and community. Three Black-owned restaurants in Baltimore stepped up too – Neopol Savory Smokery, Flight Restaurant & Bar and Chef David Thomas & Tonya Thomas formerly of Ida B’s Table – bought eggs from us. That was the first time we sold to other Black-owned institutions. I’ll never forget their support.
The Network took yet another step. People in our community started asking, where’s the meat? So we found Master Blend Family Farms – a 4th generation Black owned pig farm in rural North Carolina. The Network rented a refrigerated truck in order to go pick up meat that was free of antibiotics, hormones and pesticides. I called my cousin Junebug who is a truck driver. (Some of ya’ll have a “Junebug” too:). Junebug drove all night to pick up our order and we sold the sausage, bacon, and spare ribs to our family in Baltimore after church on Sunday. Our folks were grateful to eat food that tasted like “down home.”
I announce our next step. The Black Church Food Security Network is launching the “Black Church-Supported Agriculture Program.” From September to December 2020, we’ll sell BCSA boxes to churches in the DMV. These produce boxes will be filled by Black farmers from the Carolinas, Virginia, and other parts in the MidAtlantic.
While we’re focusing the produce boxes on the MidAtlantic this Fall and Winter, our prayer and plan is to expand in early 2021.