May 25, 2021
Ietef Vita had planned to travel most of 2020 to promote Biomimicz, the album the rapper released on his #plantbasedrecords label in January. Vita, known to his fans as “DJ Cavem Moetavation” and “Chef Ietef”, had unexpectedly thwarted these plans.
“We were in Berkeley, California on February 29, we played there and literally drove out of town just before the whole country shut down,” recalls Vita, 34, who has appeared for the Obamas and is widely recognized as the father of it considered what is known as eco hip hop. “It was scary.”
Vita was suddenly incapacitated with his wife, Alkemia Earth, a plant-based lifestyle coach, and three daughters at his home on the Denver subway, and was struggling to spin. Eventually, he accepted that it had to stay and, as the saying goes, bloom where it was planted.
With the help of his wife, he started an improvised campaign: He sent thousands of the more than 42,000 packets of kale, beet and rocket seeds that he wanted to sell at his shows, all of them emblazoned with his likeness and the QR code to his digital listening album. Using a crowdfunding campaign, he sent them free to urban farmers wherever the couple could think – Minneapolis, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Chicago, New York City, several parts of California, and his hometown of Denver. He hoped the seeds could help alleviate food shortages and long lines at grocery stores and tables in economically disadvantaged communities that have been hard hit by the pandemic.
His attempt to drive beets with his beats was a success. And more than a year later, his seed business is still growing. Vita is among a growing list of black gardening enthusiasts who have become entrepreneurs across the country. They run seed companies that have benefited from the pandemic-inspired global horticultural boom that the hopes of seed vendors, who are still cluttered with orders, will not wane anytime soon.
Gods Garden Girl, Coco and Seed, Urban Farms Garden Shop and I Grow Shit are all Black Owned, who share Vita’s mission of attracting more different people to gardening and also illuminating them as an active, pandemic-proof pastime, the one enables healthy nutrition.
It also provides an escape from stress, including racial stress, which intermittently simmered and exploded after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Research has shown that contact with plants and green spaces while gardening is beneficial for mental and physical health. In fact, a 2018 article in Clinical Medicine found that just looking at plants can reduce stress and reduce feelings of fear, anger, or sadness by lowering blood pressure and heart rate, and also relieving muscle tension. The same report urged health professionals to encourage their patients to spend time in green spaces and work in gardens.
Leah Penniman, a farmer and food activist in New York, wrote in her book, Farming While Black, that Black America’s association with seeds dates back to the time of enslavement when some Africans braided seeds in their hair when they were from to Were transported home. It was, as Penniman wrote, “insurance for an uncertain future”.
But many blacks in the US have since deliberately abandoned farming because of its association with the painful legacy of slavery, said Natalie Baszile, author of a recently published anthology on African American farmers and the novel “Queen Sugar,” which wrote the Oprah. Winfrey Network-inspired television drama revolves around a black family’s farm in Louisiana.
“Part of our cultural narrative has been to move away from the country, because leaving the country means progress,” said Baszile. “The further you are from the country, the more successful you are. You go to school, you do an apprenticeship, you get another degree, you get a job in an area where you don’t have your hands in the ground.”
But Baszile also hopes the seed and garden trend will inspire more blacks to see the health benefits of gardening.
“There is a therapeutic element to outdoor planting, even if it’s just a flower garden,” she said. “There is something absolutely essential, healthy and meditative about going outside and doing something physical; you move your body, you train, you breathe clean air, you connect with the earth. “
And she said that connecting with the ground makes people stronger, whether they grow their own food or sell seeds as a business owner.
Melanated Organic Seeds owner Devona Stevenson agrees. She said she first started gardening in 2018 to relax after suffering from depression. She then started her seed business last June at the height of the pandemic because she saw a need, even from her time growing up near Miami.
“All I saw around me was fast food and people eating junk food from the corner shop,” said Stevenson, who is moving from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to nearly two acres in Fayetteville, Georgia . “I think representation is important. So basically I saw a need and decided to meet it. For me, it’s also about reaching an untapped market, a group of people who weren’t really marketed in terms of horticulture and agriculture. “.”
Your efforts do not go unnoticed. Stevenson said her list of Instagram followers has grown from 7,000 to more than 20,000 since she started posting gardening tips last July. She said she believes many black seed business owners like her are driven by the need for education and economic empowerment.
“My business is for all people – we are all people – but I happen to be a Black woman and a business owner, and if anyone out there wants to support a black owned business, a black gardening company, we make that opportunity available to them,” said you.
Vita’s entrepreneurial endeavors – “driving seeds forward”, as he calls it – also seem to be having an effect. Online site Thrillist named him one of their “Heroes of 2020” and Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman took in his “Sprout That Life” line, which costs about $ 19 for three packs of 55 to 100 seeds their Top Gift Picks list for 2020 in the December issue of People magazine. Actor Mark Ruffalo subsequently publicly donated money to Vita’s GoFundMe campaign, which supported his seed distribution efforts, which resulted in social media shoutouts from rapper Cardi B and comedian Cedric the Entertainer.
Vita said he saw the fruits of his efforts in the photos people sent him of the food grown from his seeds. He couldn’t be more proud of how he reaches communities of color, especially black communities, which he believes live disproportionately in food deserts and are plagued by health inequalities. “I wanted to change the way they eat, let alone change the economic approach,” he said.
To date, with crowdfunding support, he has distributed more than 20,000 of his seed packages for free. He said he hoped the effort, along with his online vegan cooking and gardening demonstrations, will help inspire more blacks to try a plant-based diet and spark a growing movement.
“If we can flood our community with unhealthy foods and drugs, I believe we can flood them with seeds and love, too,” he said. “We can flood it with positivity and urban farming and juice bars; without gentrification, without replacing urban renewal.”
Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.