A farm in Cedar Grove, NC, is teaching children how to address food deserts. Sankofa Farms trains kids to operate tractors, till the land, build animal pens and much more.
It all started a few years ago with a grad student at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro -- Kamal Bell. According to Forbes, he researched food deserts and he promised himself that after graduating school, he would work towards a solution for the low-income urban areas where residents cannot buy fresh, high-quality food, which was a significant problem. “Instead of complaining about the issue, I wanted to give back, to help people alleviate the problem,” he says.
As per the USDA's website, food deserts are defined as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.
In 2015, Bell moved back to Durham to become a teacher, with a plan in mind-- he would start a farm and welcome a group of middle and high school age male black students, whom he would teach all about growing their own fresh, healthy produce. “We’d teach kids heavily affected by the system of food deserts, giving them the power to learn how to create healthy food for themselves,” says Bell. His college friend, Marcus Miller, decided to join him in his endeavour.
Together, in 2016, they started Sankofa Farms, a 12-acre farm that grows a variety of produce and also cultivates chicken, quail and duck eggs. The two friends also went on to develop a curriculum to teach students about everything from team work to the problem of food deserts, plus beekeeping, chicken coop mending, operating tractors, tilling the land and building animal pens.
Miller is a financial analyst at GE, so he takes care of business matters and makes quarterly visits to help with day-to-day operations and programming. The farm has been awarded a $2,900 grant which they will use to increase their honey bee production. They intend to use this money to purchase a caterpillar tunnel and low tunnel supplies, which will allow them to grow food year-round.