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Cultivating Black Urban Growers (2022)

Image Credit: Tabia Lisenbee-Parker, courtesy of Black Urban Growers

NEW YORK, NY (Oct. 28, 2022)—For more than ten years, Black Urban Growers (BUGs) has been one of the Open Space Institute’s (OSI) most active participants in its Citizen Action program — providing a range of programming to support Black agrarianism in both urban and rural communities.

This fall, BUGs hosted its 10th annual Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. With more than 600 attendees, the conference was the group’s most popular event to date, a success achieved after several months of planning, contracting, legal, and logistical support from OSI.

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An interactive workshop.
Image Credit: Tabia Lisenbee-Parker, courtesy of Black Urban Growers

The longstanding partnership helps to provide BUGs staff with additional capacity and has proven to be invaluable during the organization of the conference. “Jessica and the entire OSI team have gone above and beyond. The level of support provided by OSI is amazing and has become the backbone of our conference. The partnership is so meaningful and serves as a safety net that ensures we can continue to provide attendees with a quality experience,” says Regina Ginyard, a co-founder of Black Urban Growers.

“OSI uses our expert staff to manage the legal and financial aspects of the conference, so that the entire BUGs team can focus on what they do best: gathering, leading, and learning with a community of black agricultural professionals,” said Jessica Watson, director of OSI’s Citizen Action program. “This partnership is an excellent example of how fiscal sponsorship programs can support the transformative offerings of organizations working toward becoming independent nonprofits.”

This annual conference is one of BUGs’ most popular offerings. The conference gathered a community of urban and rural farmers, students, chefs, food product makers, herbalists, nutritionists, policymakers, educators, and activists, from across the country.

The theme of the event was “Reunion, Recovery and Resilience,” with Black land ownership, sustainable agriculture, and Black food sovereignty at the forefront of conference discussions. Over multiple days, participants attended hands-on skill-building workshops, panel discussions, and networking events to discuss topics ranging from agricultural education, soil health, and seed saving to land reclamation, Black farmer survival, urban gardening, and financial literacy.

BUGS2022 364 Image Credit: Tabia Lisenbee-Parker, courtesy of Black Urban Growers

It’s more than just the engaging workshops that draw attendees. “With all our conferences, it’s the reconnection to our ancestral lineage; our past, our history, which is the winding thread and the reason we gather to celebrate,” explains co-founder Karen Washington.

Beyond connection and celebration, the conference has also resulted in positive, real-world outcomes. “This event has become a place to spark ideas and create meaningful, lasting connections. I know at least four new organizations that have started as a direct result of folks meeting at our conference and sharing a common dream, knowledge, and a desire to build something new in their local communities,” adds co-founder Regina Ginyard.

The event is organized and run by several Black women leaders, including three co-founders of Black Urban Growers: Suzanne Babb, Regina Ginyard, and Karen Washington; the organization’s first part-time staff member, Kwayera Wilson; and a local coordinator, Tasha Gomes.

About Black Urban Growers

Since 2010 Black Urban Growers has been creating a space for urban and rural farmers, food justice activists, chefs, educators, policymakers, and everyday citizens to come together and share innovative ideas, projects, and best practices for reclaiming and reshaping our community food systems.

About the Open Space Institute

The Open Space Institute protects scenic, natural, and historic landscapes to provide public enjoyment, conserve habitat and working lands and sustain communities. Founded in 1974, initially, to protect significant landscapes in New York State, today, the Open Space Institute has been a partner in the protection of more than 2.3 million acres in the eastern US and Canada to promote clean air and water, combat climate change, improve access to recreation, strengthen communities, and provide for wildlife habitat.

Now in its fourth decade, Citizen Action is OSI’s longest-running program and has mentored, trained, and launched more than 150 grassroots startups in New York City, the Hudson Valley, and beyond. Participants range from community gardens and local land trusts to environmental educators and promoters of nature-based arts and activities. OSI sponsors Citizen Actions groups that address issues that are central to OSI’s mission while improving their local communities.

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