Story and images by Danielle Ambersley
Sacred Seeds Inc. is a grassroots organization, led by C.J. Sapong. It is devoted to nourishing, educating and building community within under-served communities. Sacred Seeds focuses primarily on getting youth involved so that they obtain this potentially life altering information from an early age. The organization aims to do this first through education, which currently takes place through the organizations participation and presence at community events such as Celebrating Diversity with the Virginia Development Academy at Howison Homestead Park and the Girls on The Run in Montgomery County, Maryland. The Sacred Seeds family tackles education by identifying nutrient deficiencies in a community, focusing on where these communities are and why a deficiency is present. They then generate interactive experiences geared towards sustainability and agriculture, and finally use this research and interactive experiences to host awareness-related events at their “Seed Labs” and “Sacred Spaces” where members of highlighted communities may attend in order to expand their knowledge of deficiencies and the sustainability and agricultural practices they might incorporate into their lives. The team tackles nutrition by growing and maintaining small scale portions of produce specific to a regions nutrient needs. Where the organization cannot directly provide produce, they direct communities and provide them access to farmer’s markets and similar resources for fresh, organic produce. Lastly, Sacred Seeds reaches success in community building through empowering communities. This is done through creating trust and connections between the organization and various communities. The organization then works with them directly as well as through outside resources to provide them the education and tools necessary to understand and implement sustainability and healthy food choices into their lives. Educating the communities also includes helping them understand the economic effects urban agriculture has on communities who already use it and then aiding them in generating their own increased income with the resources and technology provided. In addition to arming the communities with this knowledge, sustainable urban agriculture initiatives provide under-served communities with just the tip of the iceberg with tools for fighting back against climate change. Through sustainable agriculture, communities are lowering their carbon footprint and becoming “more energy efficient […] [creating] a culture of “conscious living” that maximizes the potential of ourselves and our environment for generations to come” [sacredseeds.org].
Sacred Seeds’ most major objective is the creation of a greenhouse in Ghana, home to founder C.J. Sapong. My contributions during the internship was the research of this initiative, detailed below:
Ghana lacks Vitamin A, iron and iodine, nutrients vital to sustaining a healthy diet. Sacred Seeds’ role in Ghana would be to develop a greenhouse that grows plants that are high in the nutrients the region possesses less of, as well as omega 3, sulfur, B9 and B6. The objective would be to not only nourish the area, but to educate them and get them involved in the greenhouse, which would require full time employees as well as a frequent influx of volunteers. Hopefully the initiative could work like American supported Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiatives, where members of the community are not only allowed to help out in the greenhouse, but also are provided with the option to have certain produce sent to their homes weekly. Depending on crop yield, demand and the specific region in Ghana the team decides to focus on, CSA produce boxes may have to operate on a bi-weekly or monthly period, at least initially and until better and larger funding operations take place that could provide the Sacred Seeds team the opportunity to build a second, larger greenhouse. Implementing a greenhouse initiative in a region that needs it most and working with them hand-in-hand, would greatly provide the people with the confidence and resources to aid their communities, even after the Sacred Seeds organization has left. The organization wants to first try this initiative in Kensington, Philadelphia, a U.S location that has been identified as a food desert. Kensington is facing a nutrition deficiency similar to that of Ghana, so starting here allows us to understand how the operation might work in a foreign country. It helps to have some knowledge of how greenhouses operate and what types of vegetables can be grown in one, so I encourage students with backgrounds in agriculture as well as those who may have interned or volunteered in the greenhouse at Mason with Donielle Nolan to get involved with Sacred Seeds and lend us your knowledge.
What truly sets Sacred Seeds apart from other non-profit, sustainable urban agriculture initiative organizations, is their ability to be flexible and that it truly feels like a family. In this organization we bend, but we never break. Over the course of this semester we’ve communicated in person, over emails, texts and facetime calls, we’ve hurdled travel obligations amongst various team members, swift deadlines and the team was even a support system when I lost a loved one close to the end of the semester. There is legitimate care and true passion within this organization and I have felt so blessed to be a part of the start of something this amazing.