This article was written by and will soon be published by RAFI’s Farm and Faith Partnership Project “Food, Faith, and Farmers of Color: A Guide for Community Collaboration.”
Ken Daniel has lived on a farm his entire life, but it wasn’t until the last decade that he started operating a farm largely by himself. After years of farming part-time, Ken and his brother Dennis now own and operate Singing Stream Farm, a 50 acre farm in Wake County.
The transition to full-time farming has not been clean and simple for Ken and Dennis. Trying to find a number of consistent and quality marketplaces has been a challenge, as Ken says major wholesalers were not interested in a partnership with a small, black farmer. Instead, Ken has found markets through relationships and connections. Singing Stream inherited a solid customer base from their father’s business and also through a partnership with the state of North Carolina to provide fresh produce for a healthy eating program.
Through the Farm and Faith Partnerships Project (FFPP), RAFI-USA was able to help create more market share for Ken and two other farmers of color in Wake County — Steve and Elke McCalla of Rocky Ridge Farm and Demetrius Hunter of the Black Farmers Hub — by connecting them with eight churches to form a CSA. When Ken heard about FFPP, he was thrilled about the opportunity to create new relationships with churches in the area. Ken and his brother had always liked the CSA model, but had never had the necessary market to provide a CSA.
“The CSA model has been a plus,” Ken said, “because we’re getting into spaces that traditionally the small black farm hasn’t been able to get into.”
The first season of the CSA ran for eight weeks, with farmers having planted in mid-February and deliveries being made from May through June 2021. With over 120 people throughout Wake County participating, this CSA created $20,000 total in produce sales combined for the three farms. After a successful spring season, the CSA has already expanded to include three new faith communities and one additional farmer of color for the summer season.
Gary Smith, a member of a participating faith community, said that one of the best parts of the experience has been getting to know new people and “fostering open conversations in the midst of learning, growing, and developing together.”
“We’re growing something beautiful here,” Gary said. “I think God leads us to grow in ourselves and grow in our faith through this work.”
Ken remarked that the CSA has provided consistency for his farm business and has allowed him to plan ahead with a bit more peace of mind. Being able to “get the most out of (his) farm” and getting to grow new produce like swiss chard are two of Ken’s favorite aspects of the experience.
Likewise, participating faith communities enjoyed the fresh produce, community connections, and the opportunity to seek justice.
“I highly recommend this type of project for any church that wants to dip a toe into justice,” Gary said. “When you want to know how hot bath water is, you stick your toe in and test the temperature. If it’s right, you can jump in. This is an opportunity for churches to get a feel for doing this work.”
Ken and Gary both have hopes that the CSA project can continue to expand to include more farmers of color and other churches in Wake County.
For more information about the Farm to Church CSA at Community UCC, contact Gary Smith, chair of Justice in a Changing Climate, at firstname.lastname@example.org.