Rise & Root Farm
Chester, New York
“Agriculture is at the center of every social-justice issue,” says Jane Hodge, 37. “When a community maintains its own food sources, the people can control so much more.” Hodge put that philosophy into action 12 years ago when she joined the team at Just Food, a New York City nonprofit that advocates for healthy produce in underserved neighborhoods. On the job, she met a few kindred spirits: Karen Washington, 62, ran a community garden and launched a farmers market in the Bronx. Washington and Lorrie Clevenger, 42, founded the Black Urban Growers, a group that organizes a national conference annually for minority farmers and gardeners. Michaela Hayes, 45, a former chef at NYC’s Gramercy Tavern, started the food preservation site crockandjar.com to help folks eat local all year long.
In 2010, the group of inveterate urban gardeners decided to farm, for real, and enrolled in a training program called Farm Beginnings to bone up on the business aspects of agriculture. Today, on three leased acres 50 miles north of Manhattan, the women sustainably farm a wide range of vegetables, heirloom tomatoes, cut flowers, and more. They sell the goods to restaurants nearby and in Manhattan and at three farmers markets.
Rise & Root also hosts volunteer days, where family, friends, and customers can gain experience in the field, and recently broke ground on a community kitchen, which will accommodate cooking classes, workshops, and offer a shared space to neighboring farms. “Everyone should have access to healthy food,” says Hodge. “Not just those who can pay a lot for it.”