Real Roots Food Systems is a company based around increasing the viability of urban farming and it’s ability to feed communities. It seeks to do this by
a.) Offering installation services to those who are ready to start growing food in their urban/peri-urban contexts.
b) Offering workshops and presentations teaching people different strategies for growing fruits or veggies in their urban/peri-urban contexts.
Small-scale vegetable growing
Both the installations and the workshops are led by Mark Davis C.U.A, a dedicated horticulturalist and student of organic urban agriculture from Fredericksburg, Virginia. Mark was one of nine Fellows selected to be a part of one of the first USDA-NRCS funded Urban Agriculture Certification programs in the nation. He has also worked to found and run a community garden at Howard University, cultivating and re-purposing the empty lots around the university’s dormitories. He is an Eagle Scout and a self-taught herbalist, who has a very strong passion for inspiring others to cherish and value the Earth and to make use of whatever space they may have to do it! He may be young and lack formal farm management experience, but he is truly a student of his craft, and is dedicated to using what knowledge he has gained thus far to uplift and strengthen his community and anyone else ready to take the next step towards sustainability.
1. The Mission
The Black’s Law Dictionary defines sustainability as continuing growth or development without affecting the environment negatively. As citizens, we should be preparing to contribute to the new regenerative food system of the future. One of the ways we can contribute is to start growing what food we can ourselves. Real Roots Food Systems has a mission to help shift the collective mindset to where everyone in a community has a way to participate in this new food system. Whether this is through contributing to local composting, volunteering at a local farm site, or (and ideally) growing a small, if not considerable, portion of your own food — whether you live in the city or not. Within this system, awareness would grow of what it actually means to control the production of your community’s food…and the people within the community would have actual stake in that taking place. People could grow the types of food that fit into their context (people in small apartments could grow micro-greens, people in the suburbs grow tomatoes and cucumbers, more rural could grow potatoes and onions, etc). We could feed our own families, trade with other people who have different produce, or find a useful way to contribute to the system otherwise. We would know what went into the food we grew, and develop an appreciation for what we eat and put into our bodies. These are all examples of food system sustainability…and it’s hard to make an argument against a future like that.
I personally believe that we have left the production and quality of our food in somewhat dubious hands for long enough. Our society’s current model of large scale industrial agriculture and particularly the importing food from far away countries is not built to last. Often it is not the fault of the large scale farmer’s we currently leave most of our food production up to…Here at home they are trying to compete with foreign countries with much lower wages — while abroad they are only responding to the demands of America’s rampant consumerism. Convincing the average American that expecting oranges to be for sale at the grocery store in January is wholly unnatural and harming our environment may take a while…but getting someone to hop in and volunteer at their nearest farm once a month should not. It is of utmost importance to understand the process of growing our own food, and RRFS has a mission to make that idea simple and accessible. Our responsibility is to ourselves. It’s to our family and friends. It’s to our planet and the various species that work so hard to keep everything in balance. We are not separate from nature. We have to understand that we have a right to consume what we need to live, but if we fail to do our part in replenishing it we are forgetting the one true job we have as a species.
2. Our Objectives
- To help the citizens of Richmond to participate in the building of a new, regenerative food system for our collective community.
- To protect our soil and our water from threats both seen and unseen.
- To educate the current and the next generation on what it will take to be proper stewards of the land and of the planet as we enter the next era of human existence
- To help research and develop the systems that will be required to strengthen and protect our food system, and ultimately our communities.
- To create a hub of shared agricultural and nutritional knowledge for anyone worldwide that is committed to the shift of human consciousness and the liberation of the masses.
3. The Farmer
Mark Davis, CUA
I’m originally from Fredericksburg, VA, a small town of 25,000 in Central VA. As a child, I always had an interest in plants…it usually took the form of me making “potions” out of different plants I would pick and smash up in my mom’s old tupperware. As I got older I developed a passion for science and language, particularly chemistry and Latin, and I’ve carried that with me my entire life. After graduating high school, I attended Howard University in Washington D.C for 3 years, studying Linguistics, Ancient Languages, and Philosophy. Although I did not graduate, I left with an intellectual perspective that I will always be grateful for…a newfound understanding of my roots as a black man in America, and an arsenal of philosophical teachings ranging from Seneca to Garvey. Needless to say, there weren’t too many people hiring in the field of Ancient Latin, so I spent a few years writing and performing music and working in the food service industry until I decided to embrace the wonderful duality of life and move to the former capital of the Confederacy… Richmond, Virginia. In 2017 I formalized my knowledge of agriculture and gardening through the Tricycle Urban Agriculture Certification program here in Richmond and first conceptualized my lifelong quest towards business ownership and self-reliance. During a brief stint in Philadelphia, I participated in the Penn State Extension Master Gardener program and informally started RealRoots as a community garden next door to my apartment and a mobile garden maintenance service. It didn’t take long to miss Richmond…I moved back within a year and a half. I formally organized and licensed RealRoots Food Systems LLC and began the work that I hope to continue for the rest of my life!