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5 Black-led Food System Organizations You Should Know

As part of our commitment to promoting equity in the food system and in honor of Black History Month, we’re highlighting Black-led companies and organizations working to make the local food movement in Central Texas a more racially inclusive space. Leaders from Dobbin-Kauv Farm, Green Thumb Farming, Inter-Generational Gardening Soul to Soul, The Rooted in Melanin Initiative, and Texas Small Farmers & Ranchers Community Based Organization generously shared their time and experience to help us learn more about their work and how we can all support their missions.

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

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Photo curtosy of Dobbin-Kauv Farm

Dobbin-Kauv Farm

Tiffany Washington, Owner of Dobbin-Kauv Farm

Tell us a little about the history of your farm.

Dobbin Kauv Farm is on a quarter-acre property in East Austin on a busy intersection. I am planning on turning this into a food forest so community members can learn about agricultural history.

I am a veteran. When I left the service, I was in a hard place and it was suggested to me that I get a service animal. I am not a fan of dogs, so I got tortoises. I was buying all this lettuce and feeding it to my tortoises, and I thought: I should just grow this. The first time I saw that lettuce poke out of the soil, it was a lightbulb moment. I can grow food! Pretty soon my kids started eating the greens, so I had to expand and that’s how I got where I am.

The farm I have now is in what Austin used to call the “out-lots.” I contacted the owner, and she was interested in regenerating the land and using shared earth principles of land management. I was looking to farm, and I was coming right out of Farmshare’s Farmer Starter program. I was able to lease the farm and I took off from there. I had been farming in my own and a few others’ backyards and now I had a real farm to call my own.

My husband joked with me one time that I make farming fancy—called me “Nancy Farm Fancy”—so now a lot of folks call me just that.

Is agriculture part of your family history, or are you relatively new to farming?

The history of my family did factor into my interest in farming because it was taken away from me. I was dissociated from my past and my family history was lost to me until I started this journey. Soon after I started gardening, my uncle made a comment about the farm my family had in Mexico. I had never heard about it before, but it got everyone in my family talking. It turns out my family has long roots in the Antioch community (in what is now Buda) and raised livestock, horses, grew food, and had an entire community down there. Due to pressures from white neighbors, they found it easier to move closer to the city center in the 1920s and all of that history was disjointed and lost.

My grandmother was a civil rights activist in Austin for many years—she worked with the Black Citizens Task Force—and she managed the Victory Grill. For me, activism, food traditions, farming—they all go back to my roots. When I think about it, I ask: What happened to our farm? What happened to our knowledge of farming? This work is just more passionate for me because it was lost to my family. I won’t let that happen to my kids. I want them to have this, so they don’t grow up anxious and depressed, so they have a chance.

What else would you like people to know about your farm?

As much as I am a farmer, I am a historian! (Watch Tiffany’s talk on the History of Black Farming in Central Texas here, hosted by the Central Texas Young Farmers’ Coalition.) I spend a lot of time researching and uncovering information about Black farmers because we need to know.

My farm is a testament to Black farmers and Black families who have been disenfranchised across the U.S. This is a nod to Black foodways and Black heritage. There has been a great disservice in the narrative about Black food and health disparities—this was not always the way. We once lived in farming communities; we supported each other. There is a lot of love in Farmer Nancy’s heart, and I’m here to share that.

How can our readers support you?

I have a small CSA that is currently full. However, you can buy my produce online. Most of my produce I give away to homeless people in my neighborhood, or anyone who strolls by and has questions about my “garden.” (I always tell them—this is a farm! Not a garden!) You can also find me all over the internet! I have a YouTube channel, I’m a Twitch streamer, and you can donate to me directly.

Find all of Farmer Nancy’s contact info here.

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Green Thumb Farming at the SFC Farmers’ Market at Sunset Valley, 2020

Green Thumb Farming

Jane Taylor, Owner of Green Thumb Farming

Tell us about the history of your farm.

We started gardening in our backyard as a hobby in 2015 and gifted the excess to friends and family. Though I call it a hobby, farming has been in our family lineage for generations. We quickly realized that we were missing the opportunity to share the works of our hands with our community members. We rented 20’ x 20’ plots from the Pflugerville community garden to expand the production that sustains our booth at the farmers’ market. The blessings were more than we expected, and this has sparked more motivation in our hustle. We are currently in the process of looking for land to support our expansion.

Is agriculture part of your family history, or are you relatively new to farming?

We are immigrants from Kenya, an agricultural country, and farming has been an economic venture in our family for many generations. Farming back in Kenya primarily consisted of collard greens, Swiss chard (which funny enough, we call spinach), maize, potatoes, pumpkins, avocados, mangoes, sugarcane, beans, peas, cilantro, and Russian comfrey. However, here in America, we have discovered new vegetables and herbs that were not commonly available and popular in Kenya. This has helped us expand the variety of the produce we showcase at the farmers’ market.

What else would you like people to know about your farm?

We are a black-owned, female-owned, non-GMO, pesticide- and herbicide-free farming company. We are learning, expanding, and striving to be a part of the shift in quality of life by providing accessible, healthy, and nutritious food. One of our goals is to help decrease food insecurity in our community and hopefully inspire others to do the same.

How can our readers support you?

A big help would be for them to come to the farmers’ market and support local farmers. Follow us on social media: our Instagram page is @greenthumbfarming. We are working on setting up an online shop that would allow our customers to place orders for either pickup or delivery. This new opportunity will be announced on our Instagram page, so be sure to follow, like, and share. We are open to receiving information about growth opportunities, such as financing that may be available. Or people can donate old planting containers, such as pots and trays, or anything that would be beneficial to our growth.

Is there anyone else we should highlight?

We would like to highlight SFC and all the many other companies working hard to provide a safe, fun space for farmers and creators. SFC members have been such a great help, there has been so much kindness and information shared, and we want to say a big thank you from us at Green Thumb Farming.

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Photos from Soul to Sour senior gardens

Inter-Generational Gardening Soul to Soul

Robbie Ringer, Program Manager of Inter-Generational Gardening Soul to Soul

What is the history and mission of your organization?

Soul to Soul works to improve health in the Black community by encouraging physical activity and increasing access to fresh, healthy foods through gardening. A team of one adult lead gardener supervises at least two youth gardeners, age 12-17, who plant and tend to gardens in the homes of participating seniors age 65 and older.

Marva Overton, executive director of the Alliance for African American Health in Central Texas (AAAHCT), submitted the idea for Soul to Soul to Dell Medical School’s Community Driven-Initiatives program in 2018, and Dell Medical provided initial funding.

In 2019, the program kicked off with one of SFC’s Introduction to Food Gardening class series at Huston-Tillotson University. This was to get us all on the same page: some participants were expert gardeners already, while others were new to gardening. For ongoing gardening lessons, I teach from the garden at Eastside Baptist Church.

There’s a lot more to Soul to Soul than gardening. One of the purposes of the program is to combat isolation among Black seniors. Another is education around food sovereignty and environmental justice issues through workshops facilitated by Dr. Naya Jones. A third focus is financial literacy: youth and adult gardeners get a stipend for participating in the program, which also provides workshops on managing money.

Could you share a recent story from Soul to Soul?

One requirement of Soul to Soul is that seniors share their stories about their connection to farming or gardening—all of the seniors have a connection. One senior participant recalled going into the city on a wagon with her father to sell the tobacco and corn he grew on their farm in rural Alabama. Her sister has moved back there and is working to restart the family farm. Another senior participant lives in her grandmother’s house in East Austin and had not gardened before, but she wanted to learn to garden in the place where her mother and grandmother had gardened before her. It’s a great experience for the youth to hear these stories.

What else can you share about your organization?

Due to the pandemic, we aren’t doing in-person group activities. We have not been able to actively recruit for the program as we had before, through school principals and counselors and through churches. Some youth participants will be back once in-person activities are considered safe, but others have aged out of the program. Even though we haven’t been able to recruit, we were able to plant seven gardens last fall.

We hope to hold some in-person activities in the spring, so we don’t lose ground with participating seniors because COVID-19 has worsened isolation. In the meantime, we’re holding virtual meetings with adult leads to keep their skills up, and Dr. Jones has led virtual study circles on the history of gardening in the Black community.

One unexpected benefit of the program has been increasing contact between some of the seniors and their neighbors. Some seniors live in neighborhoods that are gentrified and did not know their neighbors at all. The gardens were a great conversation piece and really opened the door to communication. Once we started installing the gardens, neighbors started to come by and ask about the gardens and many of them offered to help and lend tools.

How can people support your mission?

We are looking to encourage more participation of adult lead gardeners to help sustain the gardens put in and eventually establish new ones. Field trip opportunities are also welcome so the youth gardeners can learn more about gardening. Donations are always welcome and can be made through AAAHCT.

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Rooted in Melanin volunteers at a workday at Kenny Dorham’s Backyard

The Rooted in Melanin Initiative

Lisa Boyd, President and Co-Founder of The Rooted in Melanin Initiative (also known as Rooted in Melanin or RIM)

What is the history and mission of your organization?

The Rooted in Melanin Initiative is a food justice−focused nonprofit organization founded in the spring of 2020. Our mission is to provide Austin-area BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) with the resources, tools, and community necessary to build healthier, more sustainable lives. We do this by connecting our members to spaces that have garden plots and giving them the necessary tools and education to practice cultivating organic food.

Would you share a recent story from Rooted in Melanin?

We have had so many individuals tell us that they want to start growing their own food. Earlier in the fall, we had a seed starting workshop with a local chapter of Veggie Mijas, a vegan, Latinx, environmentally-focused organization. A few weeks after teaching their group about starting seeds and growing them to harvest, we had several people show us transplants they had grown themselves from seed! As time has gone on, we have seen their plants continue to grow to harvest. We see the members in our community Facebook group share pictures of their various projects and how they experience joy through their own learning processes.

What else could you share about your organization?

Often, new gardeners—especially new, BIPOC gardeners—feel like they don't have that special touch to grow their own food. When we come together and see ourselves overcoming beginner mistakes and sharing knowledge, it truly empowers us. That is why this organization and its mission is so special.

How can people support you in your mission?

Our community has shown us so much support in many different ways. We have had friends start seedlings and share them with us to plant in our garden spaces. We have also had donations for our compost bins, as well as organic materials (fertilizer, compost, soil, etc.). Tools, supplies, or money are always welcome and can be arranged by completing a form on our website, Any classes or time donations for educating our leadership are also welcome. We love the relationships we are building with various garden organizations in Austin and the country.


Photo via the TSFR/CBO website

Texas Small Farmers & Ranchers Community Based Organization

P. Wade Ross, Chief Executive of Texas Small Farmers & Ranchers Community Based Organization (TSFR/CBO)

What is the history and mission of your organization?

The Texas Small Farmers and Ranchers Community Based Organization (TSFR/CBO) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1998 by W. Wade Ross (State Director) and his wife, Anita Ross (Executive Administrator). TSFR/CBO was initiated while farming and ranching on 120 acres in Bryan, Texas, by a group that included 30 Black farmers and ranchers from surrounding counties as its first members and a few representatives from Prairie View A&M University (a 2501–1890 school ) just prior to the settlement of the infamous Pigford v. Glickman class-action lawsuit* in April 1999.

TSFR/CBO was established with the goal of strengthening USDA outreach efforts to limited-resource, traditionally underserved and underrepresented farmer and rancher customers to ensure USDA coordinates program delivery outreach efforts in counties throughout Texas. This CBO is actively accelerating assistance to minority, female, limited-resource, veteran, and beginning farmers and ranchers by providing outreach assistance in receiving information, technical, and program assistance from USDA, state and county agencies, and various Texas universities.

*A class action discrimination lawsuit led by Black farmers against the USDA - the largest civil rights class-action suit in US history.

As the leader of the TSFR/CBO, is agriculture part of your family history?

Our 120 acres that we farm is a legacy from W. Wade Ross' paternal grandfather, Jack Ross, a runaway slave from South Carolina in the late 1890s. The uncultivated property was offered to Grampa Jack for $1,200 by the townsfolk that wanted to keep him in the community for his excellent blacksmith talent. He could pay $100 a year for 12 years, so since he couldn’t read or write, he notched an old tree in front of his little shack each year before he went into town to make his annual payment. In the 12th year, after he made his final payment in town, a group of white men told him that they had chopped down his “payment tree,” so he had to start his payments again, which Jack did for another 12 years. To this day, the family cannot find a tree with his notches.

From the mid-1940s to the mid-to-late 1980s, our family land lay desolate until remaining family members, including Wade, returned to the land to farm it. Over the past 25 years, the land has been farmed (primarily grass/hay operation and Angus cow/calf producer) by W. Wade Ross, along with his two youngest sons, P. Wade and Ken.

Would you share a story about a person who has used your services or programs?

Billy Wright, a retired Army Veteran, and his wife, Marilyn Wright, are owners and operators of a small, 240-acre ranch and farm operation. Since 2004, they have raised cattle. They have participated in TSFR/CBO outreach events and projects for the past 15 years and have utilized several of our organization’s tools and resources to enhance and greatly benefit their operation. Via TSFR/CBO’s partnering with Texas USDA/National Resources Conservation Service on a variety of ag projects, the Wrights are in the process of putting up more cross-fencing, using cover crops, and for the past two seasons have started using a no-till method for planting crops. They are also working on improving the efficiency of the pastures, so weed control is always on the agenda. Lastly, through our ongoing member projects, they recently acquired a high-tunnel hoop house to help diversify their production as well as set up an Egg Mobile business that allows them to produce and sell eggs daily.

What else would you like people to know about your group?

Please know and understand that systemic racism is a real thing. For decades, groups like TSFR/CBO have been attempting to effectively communicate their needs and initiate impactful policy and processes for small and underserved rural residents to survive and thrive through economically impactful policy. In this digital age of cellphone cameras and frequent visual instances of social injustice, mainstream media is finally starting to wake us up to the fact that we do not currently live in a colorblind society where there is a level playing field (as much as we want to believe that is a thing of the past…). It impacts us all. We have work to do.

How can people support your mission?

Be open to learning the true racial history of our country, past and present. For too long, it has been a taboo subject that we have attempted as a society to sidestep simply as a hiccup in this great country's history. As painful as it may be, until we truly learn and understand race’s role in our country up to this point, we are doomed to continue repeating our mistakes. Once we truly know it collectively as a nation, we can authentically embrace and create sustainable change, starting with our own surrounding communities. To those who want to learn more about our organization, they can visit our website at

Is there anyone else we should highlight?

On September 12, 2012, Wade Ross, Founder and State Director of TSFR/CBO, received the USDA 64th Annual Secretary’s Honor Award in Washington, D.C., for forging partnerships between government agencies and other entities leading to changes that promote sustainable agricultural client bases and healthy environments for rural and underserved communities. Please support local and state policies that help unserved and underserved individuals and communities survive and thrive economically.

SFC recognizes that Central Texas has a long history of perpetuating the separation of Black people from the land. We hope you will join us in supporting these Black farmers, gardeners, and resource providers in meeting their goals.

In addition to supporting these farms and organizations, we can also educate ourselves about the pervasive racial inequity in the food system to become better advocates for justice. Here are a few resources to get you started: