Everyday Akron Stories, Non-Profit Feature

Akron Urban Agriculture | Non-Profit Feature

How and when did the non-profit get started? 

The Akron Urban Agriculture non-profit was started by a group of students from The University of Akron, due to issues like food insecurity with students on campus and low-quality food options in the dining halls. To promote change and dialogue, we created multiple surveys to inquire about the needs of students who are dairy free, vegans and vegetarians.

In response to our surveys, we started a huge garden on campus to allow students access to free, organically grown fruits and vegetables. At the time, we felt having access to fresh fruits and vegetables would only increase the productivity and value of each student. We became a non-profit in 2020.

USDA Organic emblem over a variety of fruits and vegetables

What are the mission and vision of the non-profit?

The main goal of the Akron Urban Agriculture is to spread awareness of quality local gardening, farming, food production and sustainability in the city of Akron. As part of this goal, we hope to raise the standard of quality food options in Akron and create a network with other neighboring schools.

To achieve these goals, we have started community gardens in Akron, and we are raising funds with the goal of implementing a seasonal extension of food cultivation through methods such as a solar greenhouse. We see the local production of quality, healthy food as a means to address current issues ranging from air pollution, conservation, crime, food deserts and unemployment.

We also see food as an important catalyst to create unity and raise consciousness among the different cultures that comprise the city of Akron and the surrounding neighborhoods. Our model is the “Venus Project.”

vending machine of pre-jarred salads

What is your focus in now? Who do you help and why? 

We have a clear and concise plan for helping cities like Akron and Cleveland through gardening and farming as stated previously. Currently, there has been an influx of food deserts, homelessness, low consciousness and mass extinctions, as well as protesting.

The current project we are working on is a congressional project called the Akron/Cleveland High Tunnel initiative. Representative Marcia Fudge has consistently supported the vision of this initiative in District 11. Her offices in Ohio and Washington, DC, have been essential for the success of this project. The best way to alleviate these injustices is through education and farming.

Furthermore, the data shows minimal opportunities and food deserts which equate to high crime rate. For that reason, we’ve been working with the USDA for the past three years on agriculture, construction, conservation, education, safety and sustainability in Akron/Cleveland. During my time at school and simultaneously working with the USDA, I absorbed a lot of info about the socially disadvantaged and the effects of eating poorly. During the 1920s, a lot of Black farmers were forced off their land and, due to Jim Crow laws and racism, many farmers were forced to retire early. Our non-profit exclusively helps farmers, gardeners, the elderly, those who are incarcerated and those who are disabled with locating grants, programs and initiatives to assist in their efforts in farming or gardening.

Due to the recent protests happening across Ohio, AUA feels providing opportunities for those in need like homeless and minorities is essential. We are also focusing on acquiring property to help minorities in gardening, home repairs and land acquisitions in Akron/Cleveland. 

As a result, this negatively affected the Black community of farmers as you can see today. Poor eating habits and zero access to organic fresh fruits and vegetables is the underlying dilemma. From this experience with the people in Akron and Cleveland, I have ascertained what we need as a community to move forward. The USDA data shows food is the number one reason why many people from all cultures come together. Our program will help real people in communities in need in Akron.

We plan to use the donated land, materials and resources to help strengthen Akron’s fragile local food supply chain. From our efforts and your support, we will increase the community engagement and generate more revenue for the city of Akron on various levels. 

illustrated graphic that reads: "An invitations to a healthy schoolyard. An invitation to a healthy neighborhood. An invitation to a healthy yard."

Where is the non-profit headed? What do you hope to accomplish in the future? 

We would like to create a facility to test the chemical and nutrient level in foods we consume every day to have more accountability for farmers and producers. We also hope to create an eco-friendly community constructed from sustainable materials in Akron.

In the future, we hope to create a god-conscious and inclusive environment for all colors and races to become their best version. We have all seen what the money-based society has done to elderly, those with disabilites and homeless persons in our country. We are creating changes to fix the systemic problems that have no clear remedy for our current social issues.

We feel with our efforts we can protect our country from our next major food collapse through proper planning and marketing.

3 jars of fresh salad mix and toppings

How can people get involved?

If you would like to donate, support or volunteer, email us at AkronUrbanAgriculture@gmail.com.

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Special thanks to Kashava Holt, Executive Director of Akron Urban Agriculture, for sending these answers and providing photos. If you’d like a non-profit you’re involved with to be featured on the Everyday Akron blog, please reach out.