A popular World War I song inquired — How Ya Gonna Keep ’em Down on the Farm (After They’ve Seen Paree?)”

The lyrics voiced concern that soldiers would not want to rejoin their family farms after experiencing the life and culture of Paris.

No one could ever mistake Paris for Trenton but expect farmers to enjoy the capital city for a Juneteenth celebration at Mill Hill Park. And not just any agricultural enthusiasts, Black farmers, with skin tones as dark and history as rich as the soil they work. The Juneteenth Celebration Black Farmers Market ,presented by Outdoor Equity Alliance (OEA) and Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space (FOHVOS), promises cultivation of energy and germination of ideas to help in the development of urban gardening.

Excitement blossoms for a 12 noon to 6pm event today that delivers farming to downtown Trenton.

“As part of the larger Trenton 2022 Juneteenth Celebration, the Outdoor Equity Alliance, will present the Black Farmer’s Market,” said Lisa Wolff, cofounder of OEA and executive director for FOHVOS.  “Trenton’s Mill Hill Park, while serving as the nucleus of the festival, has dedicated an area of the park to the work and mission of this group of people who make up just 1.4% of farmers in this country. The OEA founded the Black Farmers market to focus on agriculture and its importance to African American and marginalized communities.”

The number of Black farmers in America peaked in 1920, when there were 949,899. Currently, of the country’s 3.4 million total farmers, only 45,508, are Black, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Blacks own a mere 0.52% of America’s farmland. By comparison, 95% of US farmers are white.

Wolff explained, “The Black Farmers Market culminates the work of the OEA Agrihood Internship program that inspires high school students to get involved with our lands as both a profession and to address issues such as food insecurity. Most teachers were local Black farmers that served as both role models and subject experts. Both the OEA teaching farmers and Agrihood interns will be on hand at the Juneteenth Black Farmers Market where visitors have the opportunity to ‘Ask A Farmer’ about farming, or even how to start their own garden or community garden where they live. Other issues of discussion such as historic disenfranchisement from the land for many people of color, health disparities, and lack of environmental engagement will be addressed by the farmers.”

The Juneteenth Black Farmers Market was made possible by OEA sponsor, and new Trenton resident, Princeton Hydro.

Renata Barnes, a native New Yorker who was raised in Hopewell Valley, serves as the OEA coordinator. A graduate of Mercer County Community College and New York University, Barnes holds passion for issues of racial equity, equality, and justice. She joined FoHVOS in 2020.

Barnes listed an interesting slate of both Trenton area farmers and others like UJAMAA Cooperative Farm Collective. “Run by Bonetta and Hassan Adeeb of Baltimore,” she said. “They focus on seed farming, educating future farmers, gardeners and growers who cultivate heirloom seeds and grow culturally relevant plants for food, healing, and textiles. They offer programming on community sustainability, land ownership and sovereignty.”

Then there’s the Trenton South Ward Neighborhood Association Lamberton Street Garden. .Barnes said this group is, “growing vegetables and creating a culture of community sustainability, responsibility, and ownership while growing a thriving garden to combat the health effects of food insecurity and food desert by working with a growing, committed group of residents.”

Participating farmers include:

Central Love Garden – Les Summiel, Jr. – Farmer – Ewing NJ – Grows vegetables to supply our community’s senior citizens with fresh, free produce. (Editor’s note: Summiel also is the Board President of the OEA).

Wildflower Farm – Tomia MacQueen – Pennington, NJ – Chicken, Turkey, Duck, Geese, Sheep, Vegetables

Roots, Blooms and Flowers – Iby Ikotidem – Farmer, Flemington NJ – Flowers, Vegetables.

GeoGreens – Desmond Hughes, Farmer – Trenton/Hamilton – Hydroponically grown vegetables.

Smith Poultry Farm  – Kyle Smith, Farmer –  Williamstown NJ –  Chicken, Pork, Eggs, Vegetables.

Ujamaa Cooperative Farming Alliance – Bonetta and Hassan Adeeb – Baltimore Maryland/Northeastern US Region – Focused on seed farming, educating future farmers, gardeners and growers who cultivate heirloom seeds and grow culturally relevant plants for food, healing, and textiles. They offer programming on community sustainability, land ownership and sovereignty.

Trenton South Ward Neighborhood Association – Lamberton Street Community Garden – Tyrell Smith – Farmer – Trenton, NJ – Growing vegetables and creating a culture of community sustainability, responsibility and ownership while growing a thriving garden to combat the health effects of food insecurity and food desert by working with a growing, committed group of residents.

Reprinted by permission of L.A. Parker at  https://www.trentonian.com/.  Parker is a Trentonian columnist. Find him on Twitter @LAParker6 or email him at LAParker@Trentonian.com.

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