LoveFed & LoveLed
Excitement and love abound in Raven A. Blake and Dishaun Harris who are on a mission to transform lives, one home garden at a time through their new LoveFed initiative. The two New Haven, CT natives both have worked in food: Dishaun on farms and gardens and Raven in wine and hospitality. Both are acutely aware of food apartheid in the low income black communities they grew up in, where fresh healthy food is hard to find, and diet related illnesses are harming black and latinx communities at significantly higher rates than white communities. Inspired by the historical importance and wisdom about food in their families and communities of color, they are raising funds to build gardens and hold workshops for free, for people who can’t afford to do it themselves.
“It’s one step more personal than the community garden”
LoveFed is the first initiative of their broader partnership LoveLed where they also plan "to bring hosts of artists, educators and experts from all disciplines to our community sharing their art and knowledge related to people of color in the United States, our connections to food and land historically, presently, and in the future."
For these two leaders, the change they are looking to bring is bigger than gardens, but that is a great place to start. Both were inspired by the amazing gardens their great grandparents had in New Haven back in the day. At one point in her childhood, Raven lived in the Newhallville neighborhood of New Haven, "where my great grandparents...raised nine children...we had their garden...they had so many things in that backyard it was crazy...they had grape vines, and would make jam...none of their children ever went starving...that made a big imprint in my interest in wanting to start gardening myself. Wondering why, It’s something that was so cultural that’s so lost now." This foundational experience, her work in the professional food and hospitality world in NYC and her own renewed interest in gardening have led her to enroll in the plant based culinary program at The Natural Gourmet Cooking School. She is planning to integrate her new cooking knowledge with the gardens, community building and food justice work for a deeper impact.
After college Dishaun returned to New Haven, and started volunteering for many of the groups and organizations growing food here: New Haven Farms, The New Haven Land Trust, and Common Ground School, where he eventually worked as a farmer and educator. A few years back he went out on his own and started Root Life where he offers organic gardening services, environmental and farm based education and produces natural skin care products. Dishaun also attended the Black and Latinx Farmers Immersion training at Soul Fire Farm*, and later returned there to help teach in the 2.0 version of the program. “The program showed me that I wasn’t alone. When I told people I wanted to be a farmer, people looked at me like I was crazy”. This innovative program approaches farmer training from many angles; the hands-on practical, spiritual, historical and educational. For many Black and Latinx Americans their primary association with agriculture is slavery, so this program and farm addresses both the healing and education needed to support a new crop of farmers of color.
“...We want to avoid just giving handouts. [we want to take] the time to cultivate people feeling connected to this...we want them to feel invested.”
LoveFed is allowing both Dishaun and Raven to build on their skills and passions and share them with their communities. They both see their work as part of the larger movements for systems change and justice. "[LoveFed is about] being a little bit more personal so that we can assist the movements that are going on." LoveFed is fairly unique for urban agriculture groups in New Haven because the people leading it are both New Haven natives as well as people of color. The relationships they have and want to build are close to home, and they hope this will help them have a deeper impact and also assist with the broader movement building going on. “...We want to avoid just giving handouts. [we want to take] the time to cultivate people feeling connected to this...we want them to feel invested.” They certainly have the skills and right partnership to get LoveFed started, and their positive vibe and bountiful energy to inspire and keep it going.
Want to Get involved with LoveFed?
Click here for their GENERAL CONTACT FORM where you can connect, volunteer, sign up, and more.
DONATE HERE to support their garden and community building work.
SCHEDULE A GARDEN BUILDING DAY - if you are a resident in need in either Beaver Hills, Dwight, Dixwell, Newhallville, The Hill or West Rock hoods of New Haven.
Love Fed is developing a sliding scale fee structure for people who can afford to pay for a garden build, and help support the free gardens in the process...stay tuned.
Don't miss the Love Fed New Haven & Xevioso Launch Celebration co-hosted with The Lineage Group - Saturday May 5, 1-4pm. Check the link above for more details.
AND of course....follow them on all the social medias: Love Fed New Haven on facebook, LoveFednhv on Instagram, and @lovefednhv on twitter.
Listen in to our interview with LoveLed at the top of this post or by podcast.
You might also like this interview with Jamilah Rasheed of the Field of Greens garden!
*Full disclosure, Tagan Engel is a Board member for Soul Fire Farm.