Faces of Hope: Urban Farmer Robin Emmons Sows Food for All

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She started with 50 volunteers, many friends who came to help her dig up her backyard and plant.

“We grew 3,000 pounds of food,” said Emmons, the amazement still in her voice. “I donated that to my brother’s place and to some other nonprofits.

“We understand access (to food) is only one piece of the puzzle,” said Emmons. “Essentially, there are behaviors that can be changed, but that’s a long-term proposition. We try to help people to understand the connection between food and their overall health. We do nutrition education to let people know diabetes is not their birthright.”
She continued her community education efforts, received more media coverage, and her volunteer group grew to 120.

“I think people have a romantic notion to work the land. We will take them in their naiveté and train them,” said Emmons.

Sow Much Good provides cooking demonstrations and “uncooking demonstrations,” when Emmons teaches people how to prepare raw food dishes.

“We are teaching people the canning process also, which is a lost art,” Emmons said. “Our grandmas used to do it and we didn’t pay attention.”

She admits she had to take a course to learn to can also.

“We’re trying to encourage people to grow in whatever space they have. We’re giving them some sovereignty over what they are consuming and eating,” said Emmons. “We’re teaching them how to prosper without giving all their money to the grocery store, which isn’t even in their neighborhood.”

At Sow Much Good vending stands, volunteers sell seedlings and seeds. “We accept EBT–or whatever–to give people options for how to pay,” Emmons said.

She and her volunteers go into “urban deserts,” those parts of a city where healthy foods are hard to obtain, the kind of neighborhood she grew up in. Organically grown tomatoes are $3.50 a pound in some grocery stores, but Sow Much Good sells them for $1 a pound.

“I am blown away by her passion,’ said Carol Williams, who volunteers at the stands, selling vegetables and educating people about nutrition. “I don’t know anyone else who grows food and goes to these deserts and sells to this area at low prices. I talk to people who come to buy and they tell me they have to go far for fresh fruit and vegetables and they are so thankful.”

Of course, Emmons said in the best future she would be able to fold up her stands and go home. “This would not be an issue here. I could move on to world hunger,” she said, laughing.

For now, she said, “My hope is to scale up. To empower people in their neighborhoods to have control over food source and revitalize communities right where they are.”

Sow Much Good is building an urban farm market, but Emmons won’t abandon the other neighborhoods. She is working out a way to have people either pick up their produce or have it delivered.

“Why not support an urban farm or grandmother taking her blueberries and canning them?” said Emmons. “We can stimulate the local economy right in our community. It’s about empowering people to take care of themselves.”

(Photo: Michael Hernandez)

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