Black Soil: Our Better Nature

“Food connects us and art tells the story of those connections.” – Wendell Berry

Black Soil, a social enterprise based out of Lexington, KY, launched in 2017 by Ashley C . Smith and Trevor Claiborn, her partner in life and in work. Their focus is to revive and reclaim the agricultural heritage of Black Kentuckians to build economic opportunities for 21st century Black farmers and producers through hands-on technical support and strategies including educational workshops, community events like Farm Tours and Farm-to-Table Dinners that showcase Black farmers and Black culinary artists, and by lifting up the stories and history of Black agricultural experience through art, cultural sharing, and community-building.

“If you reach back two generations or less, most African Americans will say they had a significant family connection to foodways by sustenance growing and farming, having stories of communities being so prideful of the harvest and the crop,” Smith says. “Our mission is to reconnect Black Kentuckians to their heritage, legacy, and  agriculture. If you don’t know you’re a foundational pioneer in these industries, you can accept erasure, and we’re here to say ‘no more’ because when you break down the economic impact of agriculture, there are so many ways people can be included.”  Smith plants names like seeds – Nancy Green, Booker T. Whatley, Edna Lewis – Black agricultural and foodways pioneers whose legacies are the roots of Black Soil’s work today.

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Arts & Culture Group Profile Project

The Arts & Culture Group embarked on commissioning written stories of the power of art in Appalachia. In this series - called How Appalachian People Use Art to Make Change: Stories of the Power of Art - we profile innovative projects in Appalachia that infuse community economic development work with arts and culture in order to make a stronger impact in the communities served.

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AFN Energy & Natural Resources Group Peer Sharing

On June 25th, the Energy & Natural Resources Group hosted a Funder Learning Call with the Nature Conservancy (TNC). Campbell Moore, Director of Central Appalachians for TNC, led the learning call. The call focused on the recent investment of the carbon market by Amazon and other environmentally focused philanthropies and companies. For more information on the program, please follow up with Beth Wheatley (ewheatley@tnc.org), TNC Director of External Affairs & Strategic Initiatives in West Virginia and Co-Chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Group.

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AFN Funder Response III: Health Group Update Webinar

 On June 26th, the Health group hosted a webinar with information on how the COVID-19 pandemic is reaching into rural places and putting a strain on health systems and rural hospitals. Alan Morgan, Chief Executive Officer with the National Rural Health Association, led the webinar with an overview of public health in rural areas during COVID-19. Then guest speakers from West Virginia organizations addressed access issues related to oral healthcare, COVID-19, and reproductive health. The session was moderated by Laura Nixon, AFN Health Group Co-Chair and Program Officer with the Educational Foundation of America. Learn about our speakers, below.

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AFN Funder Response II: Food & Agricultural Innovations Webinar

On June 3rd, AFN hosted a timely webinar to address the COVID-19 Pandemic and  evaluate the role of the Network amidst a call for racial justice and policing reforms across all 50 states in response to the death of George Floyd. The webinar was introduced by Michelle Foster and Lora Smith, Network Co-chairs. Carole Pickering, Program Officer with the Educational Foundation of America, and Gerry Roll, Executive Director of the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky presented on regional projects.

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