Black Soil: Our Better Nature

“Food connects us and art tells the story of those connections.” – Black Soil: Our Better Nature

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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