- Author: Susan Mora Loyko, Master Gardener
Anyone who visits the Black Urban Farmers Association (BUFA) garden can feel the love and joy for growing produce as well as the inspiration and contribution these gardeners have for the Black farmers that came before them.
Step into the garden and most likely you will hear the sounds of soft jazz music as the gardeners plant, harvest seasonal crops, and chat among themselves. There is a joy at just being there.
The members of BUFA first cut their farming teeth in 2015 as 20'x20' plot holders on the PUENTES/Boggs Tract Community Farm. Members spent time studying and learning about gardening along with the rich history of American Black farmers. The joy of gardening by the original 15 individuals who founded BUFA was long part of their DNA. But it was gardening as a group, working side-by-side and learning about gardening and appreciating the rich heritage of the country's Black farmers that moved the group to form their own BUFA organization, according to Reatha Hardy Jordan, a foundingBUFA member.
The members of BUFA have their own self-description: “Our active hands-on farmers are all passionate baby boomers who became farmers after retirement. Several of our original founders have full time jobs but offer support by scheduling volunteers & ordering resources when needed.”
Their mission: “To promote a healthy lifestyle by providing fresh, locally grown vegetables & herbs that highlight African American cuisine & a plant-based diet.” But the BUFA members and the garden are much more than that.
Reatha Hardy Jordon said in addition to the group's love of gardening, the purpose of the garden is “give community people access to fresh, local produce; reduce hunger; strengthen the garden community; teach folks the importance of eating fresh veggies.”
It was when the members of BUFA met with farm owner Kitty Brown that the notion of starting their own BUFA garden became a reality. Ms. Brown leases (at a cost of $1/year) 1/6 acre of her property to BUFA for its garden, located at 580 W. Bowman Rd., French Camp. A farmer herself (KB Farms), Ms. Brown is amazed at the bounty of year-round crops on the acreage. “It is amazing what they've done. It's just beautiful out here.”
BUFA members put in the hard work to turn the bare ground into the beautiful growing area with planter boxes teeming with seasonal crops and herbs. The group also subscribes to healthy soil, sustainable farming, and good agricultural practices. The farm's produce is available for purchase to the community. BUFA currently has about 50 regular customers who come to the garden to purchase in-season produce and herbs and/or subscribe to a bi-weekly or monthly “BUFA Produce Box” at a cost of $25 per box filled with 10 different items.
Another benefit of the garden has been to teach others how to grow veggies on their own. In addition to providing produce for sale, BUFA regularly donates fresh vegetables to St. Mary's Dining Room as part of the collaboration BUFA has with Alice Waters' Edible School Yard that supports the farm by purchasing produce from the BUFA garden and donates to St. Mary's Dining Hall.
Reatha Hardy Jordon said some students have come to the garden for classes or help with small projects such as building and installing planter boxes. The BUFA group is hoping to have more opportunities for student involvement in the future.
To learn more about BUFA, check out the links below: