Low income families and people of color have been systemically excluded from land-ownership and food production while suffering the worst consequences of food insecurity, nutritional constraints, and lack of agency. Beth Neff, director/farmer of the MARSH Food Cooperative, and Mitchell Pearson, St. Louis farmer, seek to address these inequities through an integrated “ecosystem” of consumers and farmer worker-owners. By developing urban neighborhood food production capacity, we hope to improve access to high quality, locally grown organic vegetables while providing fair wage labor opportunities, promoting sustainable land use, building social capital, modeling democratic cooperative enterprise, generating innovation, and improving quality of life.
Our project will expand MARSH’s existing urban farm by developing a large neighborhood lot into a market garden that will be farmed by paid worker-owners and will supply food through our cooperative grocery at sliding scale prices to members of the co-op and the community. Participating farmers will make group crop, production, and marketing decisions and may also develop value-added products through our licensed commercial kitchen space. By pooling resources to increase economic access and providing agricultural professionalization opportunities in an urban setting, we believe cooperative farming can be a viable strategy for food justice and sustainability.
Project objectives from proposal:
Our primary objective is to create a worker-owned urban farming cooperative that grows food for a consumer co-op and the broader community. The first step will be to engage the neighborhood in the project through meetings that share the vision for community food production, food equity, fair employment, and democratic governance. The second step will be to organize labor teams, select leadership, define the tasks, and identify necessary resources for their accomplishment. Next, teams will be charged with transforming a grassy lot into a viable food production environment, planting, maintaining, harvesting, preparing, and marketing the resulting produce cooperatively.