Radical Business Building at Foodlab Detroit w/ Devita Davison
Devita Davison is a powerhouse of a woman. I loved her from the first moment I heard her speak at the Just Food conference in NYC last spring. Being the daughter of a preacher serves her well. She’s extremely eloquent and persuasive, but what I especially love is that she speaks with deep knowledge about many of the things I care most about in this world: food, vibrant, holistic community building and transformational economic development in our most marginalized communities.
Devita helped build and currently runs Foodlab Detroit, an innovative food business incubator, less focused on a shared commercial kitchen space and more on building skills and connections needed to support vibrant businesses across social and food sector boundaries. They start from a place of triple bottom line values: people, planet and profit, and work on sustaining businesses over generations, not years.
Above: The three "C's" of Foodlab Detroit: Cultivate, Connect, and Catalyze. Photo Credit FLD website.
When I introduced Devita to some friends over at the Yale Sustainable Food Program, they were eager to bring her to town as a guest speaker. We gathered a wonderfully diverse group of local folks to listen, get inspired and share ideas of how to move some of this work forward in New Haven, a city that shares more than a few parallels and challenges with Detroit. I invited Chef Steven Ross of Anchor Spa to cook with me using produce from the Yale Farm, and we fixed up a delicious fall meal followed by dessert from two new local businesses MMM pies & Gourmet desserts, and What is Real ice cream (both previous guests on this show). Around the table were new and seasoned food business owners, community activists, City of New Haven Economic Development officers, students, food tourism folks, farmers market operators, cooking teachers and chefs, the kind of cross section of the food industry you need to make an incubator like this flourish.
It was such a joy to have these folks sit around the table and listen to Devita preach about food justice, economic development vs. gentrification, food apartheid NOT food desserts, and so much more with such inspiration and brutal honesty about race, business and culture, that people were just enraptured and listened to her drop wisdom for more than two hours. I wish I could play for you, all that she said during that lunch, but we felt it was important that it not be recorded, so that people would feel safe to speak freely about obstacles they face that are often political and charged. The conversation you WILL hear with Devita was recorded immediately following this lunch on the farm. Ony Obiocha, Director of Innovation at Yale's Dwight Hall and I sat down with Devita to drop into some deeper questions about what she visions for the future of this work and how to make it sustainable. You can certainly catch much of Devita’s story and passion on her many Tedx talks linked at The Table Underground.com. It was an honor to host her here, and I was encouraged that everyone around the table, people with extremely varied backgrounds and cultures all felt inspired by her honesty and the transformational work being done at Foodlab Detroit. It truly gave me hope.
This episode was co-sponsored by the Yale Sustainable Food Program
If you already listened to our interview (at the top of this page, or on any podcasting site) you can see her for yourself in these two excellent TEDx videos.
Want to get involved? Are you inspired? Comment below!