Living in Ghana, West Africa, was transformative for Safia Rashid and her family. When they returned to the US to live in Chicago, the urban farmer, educator, consultant and land steward, instituted, Your Bountiful Harvest Farm, on the Southside to expand her philosophy of community and nation building.
Where are you located?
We are currently renting land from Urban Growers Collective at 9000 S. Mackinaw in a South Chicago neighborhood. We are also working with the city of Chicago via our collective Englewood Village Farm’s created by Grow Greater Englewood (GGE) to acquire land in the Englewood Community.
What is your business?
We are an urban farm that grows regeneratively. Meaning, we take our environment and human health into account when we grow our crops. We grow vegetables, fruits, and herbs and make jams, fermented foods, and sauces that we sell.
How long have you been in business?
We have been in business for six years. We started out being farm consultants for those wanting to start a garden in their backyard. Then in 2014, we began farming on an incubator farm plot in the Bronzeville community.
What made you start it?
When my husband, Kamau and I started having children, we began an intense study with elders in the Pan-African community. One of the things we learned about was the Council of Independent Black Institutions’ (CIBI), 6 levels of nation building. In no particular order, it is what institutions are needed in order for African people to free themselves and those levels are the ability to cloth ourselves, provide shelter for ourselves, feed ourselves, defend ourselves, educate ourselves, and heal ourselves.
We saw that our community need was food. Due to food apartheid, we saw that many of our communities lacked access to healthy nutritious foods; places to buy foods that were relevant to us culturally; and food that is nutrient dense. Without food and proper nutrition, we saw that there is no way we can achieve any of the other levels of institution building.
Nutrient dense foods [are important because they] help with brain development and creating a healthy body. Studies have found that the lack of nutritious foods lead to stunted growth in the development of the body and the mind. Eventually, this can lead to misbehavior and lack of attention. Consequently, it shows up in how we treat each other and how we take care of our communities because we are in survival mode and not in growth and development mode.
When we look around our community, you can see we are starving, not only from nutritional deficit, but from the local government’s disinvestment in our communities. We want, Your Bountiful Harvest Family Farm, to be a place where the mind and body grows. Where new ideas and possibilities are born. And, the wisdom of our ancestors is valued and used to empower us as a people.
What makes your business special?
What makes Your Bountiful Harvest Family Farm special is that we are community-driven and culturally relevant. In everything we do, we have our people in mind. We are beginning to incorporate vegetables and fruits etc. from the African American southern tradition and the African diaspora. So you will see us growing Egusi melons, used in West African soup dishes, Callaloo, greens used in the Carribean, and southern Georgia Collards, used in the South which are eaten with hot water cornbread on the side.
I read a study that said, when African Americans ate the way of our African ancestors for 30 days, our health outcomes improved. Many African, agrarian communities ate mostly vegetables with meat as a side, and not the primary protein. When my family lived in Ghana for ten months, my family had no problem finding vegan food to eat because all of the restaurants had plenty of vegetable-based meals on the menu. And, of course the farmers markets in Ghana had plenty of fruits and vegetables to choose from even though there were many vegetables and fruits that were unfamiliar to us.
We want to reintroduce ourselves to our African foodways and traditions. Reconnect us to our motherland via the foods we grow. And, awaken the African in us. We do not have all of the answers and would like for our community to join us and share their knowledge. Your Bountiful Harvest is about fostering community wellness and healing. We do this through our Planting and Harvest Rituals and volunteer days. In whole, gathering in community with each other for a common good makes us feel seen and able to handle the problems our community faces.
What else makes us unique is that we are specifically fighting to [re]institutionalize farming in the Black community. We want food sovereignty so that no one has control over who lives or dies in our community by controlling our food system. At YBH, we use La Via Campesina’s definition of food sovereignty, which is defined as, “the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.”
La Via Campesina, this global peasant movement, “unites people to fight injustice in the food system.” We want people to join us and help build up Your Bountiful Harvest into something we have not dreamed of yet. As always, the end goal in mind is self-sufficiency and food sovereignty.
At YBH farms, Safia Rashid harvests crops reflective of the diaspora. From callaloo to collards, she uses the soil to build on her Pan-African roots.
How does your business solve a problem?
Your Bountiful Harvest Family Farm is helping to solve the problem of feeding ourselves. Not only do we grow food and sell it, we also teach people how to grow their own food. Additionally, we have teamed up with grassroots organizations to give workshops for youth and adults; gardening and farming classes; and seed swaps, where we give away free seeds and exchange seeds with the community. Also, we invite the community to join us on volunteer days and through farm internships to learn and grow from farming.
What did you find out about who you are as you built your business?
What I found out about myself as I built my business is that I like the freedom of being my own boss. My husband, Kamau, said to me back in my twenties that I was the type of person who should not work for anyone else. He saw in me before I saw it in myself that I am a leader. Which makes perfect sense from a traditional West African, specifically an Akan standpoint. I was born on a Sunday and it is said that children born on a Sunday are natural born leaders.
What keeps you going?
What keeps me going is being an example for my children and my community—and showing them that we have all of the answers inside of us to improve our communities. [As well, YBH shows how we are] working cooperatively with the wealth of resources among us [so that] we can free ourselves. Complaining should be temporary because we need people who are willing to act. [Added to that,] everyone eats so farming is a great way to bring communities together.
I love that my children get to see community building in action; being self determined in action; feeding ourselves in action; having a problem then being and/or finding the solution. When I hear stories from people who volunteered at the farm or attended one of our workshops and they get it, I feel encouraged to keep going. They understand this farm is for us and by us.
What do you do when you get discouraged?
When I become discouraged, I like to take a step back and look at the situation from all angles. I look for the true source of my frustration. Is it me? Is it an outside force? Is it something I have control over or not?
Farming will teach you how to be accepting of things you have no control over. Mother Nature is a force that you can try to fight, but you will lose. It is best to find out how you can work with nature and not against it. With that, I am learning every day to be more observant when I am discouraged on the farm. At YBH, I am learning to use my critical thinking skills in new ways and find solutions which works with nature. These skills can be applied to any situation and I am a better person because of the lessons learned through growing my own food.
How do you define success?
My approach to defining success may be different than a lot of folks in that I look to find success on a daily basis. Everyday, I want to reflect on [accomplishing] my short term success; like simply going to the gym today. Or, taking time for myself and making myself fit and strong, to me, is leading a successful life.
I find when I break life down into small pieces that I can digest, I am a lot happier with my life. I do have long term goals that I strive towards, but my success is not defined by material things as much as working towards accomplishing the goal of freedom and liberation for African people.
Success for Your Bountiful Harvest Family Farm would be our people achieving food sovereignty, while no longer depending on people who clearly do not have our best interests at heart to continue to use food or lack thereof as a means of control.
Who inspires you?
The people who inspire me are so many and it changes at different times in my life. First is my family. They inspire me to keep going and to achieve any dream I may have in life. Just being part of a family who works towards their lives’ purpose everyday, moves me.
As far as farming inspiration, the two people who come to mind are Fannie Lou Hamer and Baba Hannibal Afrik. Nana Fannie Lou Hamer is such a powerhouse she created the Freedom Farmers Cooperative (FFC). FFC literally helped to get Black people in the South, specifically Mississippi, out of poverty and to liberate themselves through farming.
[In the FCC] affordable housing was built, which for many of the families, this was their first time owning their own home. The homes had running water and were not shacks.
Also, Nana Hamer created a pig bank where pigs were loaned out to get a farmer started in the business to lower the barrier to entry into the field. At the end of the season the farmer would give back a pig to add to the bank for others to use.
I am forever grateful to learn about Nana Hamer’s revolutionary work of farming and cooperative economics from Dr. Monica White’s book, Freedom Farmers and Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard’s book, Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice.
My other inspiration, Baba Hannibal T. Afrik, who was a warrior and nation builder. He literally had his hand in every aspect of liberating African/Black people in America from education, all the way down to building a provisional government. He worked tirelessly with many grassroots organizations, Black families, and individuals who sought to free themselves and us all from modern day slavery.
Baba Hannibal was also an elder who supported my family and mentored us. Baba Hannibal was unwavering in his Pan-Africanness and our fight for the freedom and liberation of all African people here and abroad. His example inspires me to be more disciplined and steadfast in my work towards liberating our people and remembering to join forces with others who share Black liberatory views and action.
Our beloved elders speak to me. They remind me of what we are fighting for. They remind me that we as individuals are not in this fight alone. They remind me that we are our own solution to the problems that ail our community. Their work reminds me that if we can trust and love each other and work cooperatively, we will build the world we want to live in.
I believe our farm is a catalyst for change, trust, love, and cooperation. We will feed ourselves and rebuild our communities. We will empower ourselves. We will build and fund our own businesses. We will support them so they will grow and thrive. When we pull together nothing can or will stop us. Àṣẹ
How to connect with Safia Rashid and the Your Bountiful Harvest Family Farm.
Ark Republic is ending the year with a series of mixed-media stories of hope, empowerment, leadership, courage, brilliance family and affirmation. We want to enter into the New Year with a community collaboration called, “The Light Series.”
The Light Series is a month-long exploration of all things light and love. So, we invite you to walk with us. Even, we ask that you participate in highlighting those in your community who need some shine, or even yourself, your business or your superpower.
Our first week, December 1 to December 7, we will feature stories of innovators in our communities. Next, from December 8 to December 15, we share stories of inspiration from our entrepreneurs. Afterwards, from December 16 to December 25, we explore spiritual, religious and family traditions, as well as, winter rituals. Finally, from December 26 to January 1, we will end the series with stories of affirmation and forward movement in this next cycle, 2020.
If you would like to submit a personal essay, article, video, poem/spoken word or other media presentation of your work, just provide basic information and answer at least five of the questions. Once finished, send your answers and a high resolution picture(s) to the following: [email protected].
Ark Republic is an independent media company that provides a platform for free-thinking folk to tell stories as complex and colorful as possible. We need your help to keep the wheels churning and the stories flowing. Please become and member or donate to an organization dedicated to giving you stories that keep you informed.