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St. Louis urban farms to receive $350,000 in ARPA funds

A farm showing mustard greens and other crops
Erica Williams
A Red Circle
A Red Circle is a Black-owned nonprofit farming organization that received $350,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to support and establish new urban farmers in north St. Louis County.

A Black-owned nonprofit urban farming organization, A Red Circle, will use $350,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to support established and new urban farmers in north St. Louis County.

A Red Circle will provide tractors, rototillers, weed flamers and cold storage vehicles to several established urban farms in parts of north county, including Heru, Phi Global and Rustic Roots Sanctuary.

Farmers will have access to expensive equipment that could make them more efficient at their jobs.

“I have different plots around. On my newer plots I don't have that equipment,” said Tyrean Lewis at Heru urban farm in Florissant. “So it'd give me more confidence that I could maintain a different location.”

As early as spring, A Red Circle will have a scheduler for farmers to arrange times to use the equipment.

“We're all sharing, so if you need a tractor this day we'll get it to you that day,” said the nonprofit’s food and farm lead organizer, Daria Keys.

Most of the ARPA funds will go to programming that would bring more farmers into the workforce. A Red Circle will provide classes on how to grow produce and raise animals, said Keys.

“We are looking for farmers,” she said. “We will give you a solid foundation on how to become successful, how to make money off of farming and how to support your community and family.”

For Keys, more farmers means better access to healthy food in predominantly Black communities of St. Louis County that are considered food insecure.

Map generated by U.S. Department of Agriculture
The Food Access Research Atlas from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows north county's access to grocery stores that offer a variety of healthy and affordable food options. The brown area is Pine Lawn, where 13.2% of families do not have access to vehicles and are more than a half-mile away from a grocery store.

According to a 2019 U.S. Department of Agriculture Survey, 13.2% of families in Pine Lawn, where A Red Circle runs the North County Agricultural Educational Center, do not have vehicles and are more than a half-mile away from a grocery store.

“North county has nearly 225 fast-food restaurants that service the entire area, and less than 25 full-service grocery stores,” Keys said.

With ARPA funds, A Red Circle hopes to build a more resilient and equitable community through access to fresh produce. “Just because you have low income or stay in a low-income neighborhood does not mean you don’t deserve access to healthy and affordable food,” Keys said.

Britny Cordera is a poet and journalist based in St. Louis and is currently serving as a newsroom intern at St. Louis Public Radio.