On September 8, farmers and members of the Wake County CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) project participated in a “Blessing of the Land” event at Soul City Farm and Event Space in Warren County, North Carolina. Soul City Farm is owned and operated by LaTonya Andrews-Hunter and is one of the farms that make up the Wake County CSA. A CSA is a farming model where the consumer purchases a share of a farmer’s production up-front, guaranteeing a farmer income and allowing them to plan their crop production in a way that limits waste and expense.
The Wake County CSA is a pilot project of RAFI-USA’s Farm and Faith Partnership Project (FFPP). FFPP is a collaborative project among three of RAFI-USA’s programs: the Farmers of Color Network, Come to the Table, and Expanding Farmers Market Access. The goal of FFPP is to counteract injustices in the food system that marginalize farmers of color and rural communities of color by creating mutually beneficial and self-sustaining economic partnerships between farmers of color and faith groups in their communities.
The Wake County CSA began in the spring of 2021 and has grown to include 11 churches, four farms, and 120 shares of produce. The four participating farms are Singing Stream Farm, Rocky Ridge Farm, Soul City Farm, and the Black Farmers Hub. RAFI-USA’s Farm and Faith Partnerships Project Manager Jarred White has overseen the formation of this CSA, and CSA projects in other counties are currently in development. CSA shareholders, farmers, RAFI-USA staff, as well as family and friends attended the Blessing of the Land event. FFPP represents the continuation of strong relationships between farmers and RAFI-USA, as Steve and Elke McCalla and Demetrius Hunter had both previously received infrastructure grants from RAFI-USA for their farms through the Farmers of Color Network.
Along with a formal blessing of the land, the event featured a meal from Eden’s Vegetarian Catering and remarks from participating CSA farmers and members.
LaTonya Andrews-Hunter and Demetrius Hunter welcomed guests and set the scene for the evening by providing context about the land.
“We are dedicating this space and this land to my ancestors, my great grandmother, my grandfather, and my parents,” LaTonya said. “We have a lot of history on this farm, and we just want to welcome everyone.”
Farmers and CSA partners Steve McCalla of Rocky Ridge Farm and Ken Daniel of Singing Stream Farm spoke about the impact of the CSA on their businesses as well as their lives.
“We would like to share our gratitude,“ Steve said. “[Because of the CSA], we basically transitioned from a small farm to a medium sized farm.” His wife Elke added, “We feel your love and support everyday that we are out there doing what we do and we are truly grateful for this relationship.”
Ken Daniel echoed the McCallas gratitude. “Many of the things that have been done over the course of the last several months couldn’t have been possible without your help, so we want to say thank you for believing in our farms, believing in our abilities, and supporting us all the way.”
Church members of participating faith communities also spoke about what it has been like to be a part of the pilot project.
Elizabeth Kearse of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church noted that the CSA brings real change to our broken food system, creates the opportunity for more people and families to learn about where their food comes from and who grows it, supports local farmers, and cares for the vulnerable.
“I believe that we will bring lasting change for a more sustainable and just food system, and I look forward to watching us grow,” Elizabeth added.
Beth Harris of West Raleigh Presbyterian is a CSA member but also serves as the coordinator for her church. In this role, she acts as the point-of-contact for both the CSA farmers and RAFI-USA staff for communications of shareholders from that congregation. Beth spoke about her favorite parts of the CSA — trying new foods and being in relationship with the farmers.
“As a participant, I have loved seeing what surprises are in the bag each week. I have learned that fresh carrots are way better than anything you will ever buy at a grocery store. Oh my gosh, those carrots were amazing!” Beth continued, “As the church coordinator, I look forward to seeing Ken every Saturday morning, seeing what he’s got in the boxes, chatting about the weather, when veggies are coming in, what’s coming up, how’s the farm is growing, and I’m so glad we get to keep working together, hopefully for many years to come.”
The event concluded with remarks from Rev. Doug Long and a formal blessing of the land by Rev. Stanley Byrd.
“It is such an honor to be here in this space and to take in some of the earth that these wonderful farmers have created, with the help of God and all of creation,” Rev. Long said. “We can walk the earth in this time, in this slice of history in ways that are beneficial. I am glad to be walking the earth with you.”
Rev. Byrd closed the evening with a beautiful blessing: “We dedicated this land to the memory of the Andrews’ mother and grandmother and grandfather and how they worked this land to produce even when there was no one probably wanting to buy, but now God, you have created a new season for them to flourish and we dedicate this land and ask for your blessings on Demetrius and LaTonya.”