Black Oaks Center for Sustainable Renewable Living (BOC)
Pembroke Township, IL
Hi! I am Dr. J, the lady with a white hat in the picture. As a holistic family medical physician, I made a commitment to the well-being of my patients and the earth. I have since come out of the exam room into the lives of my patients and their families as an organic farmer. By growing healing foods, I assist in preventing and intervening in disease, holistically.
Over the past six years, the Healthy Food Hub has brought healthy and affordable foods to communities with limited year-round food access. We have been educating and training the next generation of black farmers. Thanks to our Beginning Farmer Rancher Award and the Rotating Apprenticeship Farmer Training Pembroke to Chicago (RAFT-PC), more than 20 young men and women have enrolled in the RAFT-PC program to pursue a business in agriculture. In the picture, our trainees and I are excited about our first distribution of CSA shares of leafy greens!
Our RAFT-PC trainees have provided greens from the historic black farming community of Pembroke, Illinois to the communities of South Shore, Englewood, Greater Grand Crossing, and Austin on the south and west sides of Chicago.
Our 500 CSA members are invested in building a local food economy. We are currently working to create a community-based, member-owned cooperative from Pembroke to Kankakee. By connecting growers and eaters, we are committed to transforming urban and rural communities through education, entrepreneurship, and access to healthy, affordable local food.
Black Oaks Center is a not-for-profit established in 2006. We aim to support community members and encourage them to be resilient in facing the challenges of resource depletion and climate change. We have a 40-acre eco-living/learning campus in Pembroke, Illinois.
We have developed several programs. The Sustainable Agriculture Tract fosters community learning and teaches youth how to grow nutrient-dense foods using sustainable methods and local food system development. The Healthy Food Hub is an offshoot of this mission to create community wealth through food.
So far our biggest challenge has been generating the resources to scale up food production. To address this problem, our vision is to create a network of high tunnels throughout Chicagoland neighborhoods that have limited access to fresh and healthy foods, including Harvey, Dixmoor, Ford Heights, South Shore, Englewood, and Greater Grand Crossing. We will start a pilot at the Black Oaks Center eco-campus in Pembroke, Illinois.
With climate change, high tunnel food production has been a priority in the commitment to sustainable agriculture. This loan will allow us to get 24 additional feet of high tunnel production space onto our NRCS EQIP program.
This high tunnel will produce salad greens, root crops, tomatoes and specialty crops as well as the last round of chickens for soil fertility. With climate change, high tunnel food production has been a priority in the RAFT-PC training. The high tunnel will allow trainees and the community at-large to learn skills in extended growing season production.
A loan of $10,000 helps me to purchase 24 additional feet of high tunnel production space so our members can learn the skills of extended growing season production, and increase production to meet growing demand from the community