Leah Lee has a mission: To reconnect Black women to farming
Urban agriculture is flourishing across the United States and is now a multimillion-dollar industry. Many farms focus on combating food insecurity and providing organic options to communities with few avenues to obtain fresh produce.
For St. Louisan Leah Lee, urban gardening and farming is an act of service.
In 2019, Lee founded Growing Food Growing People at her home in the West End neighborhood. Her goal is to teach others, specifically other Black women, how to build a stronger connection with their agricultural heritage while also learning how to grow their own food.
“I have been blessed enough to turn my backyard into a sanctuary,” Lee told St. Louis on the Air. “It’s a place for women. I show them [they can farm] by doing it.”
Lee’s journey to farming started after the death of her father in 2015. After discovering signs of her late father’s love for gardening, she threw herself into the world of soil and seeds. She participated in farming workshops and community gardens with her children. Eventually, Lee realized she could show others how to grow the same kind of joy she had found.
After founding Growing Food Growing People, Lee said she connected with other mothers in the hope of sharing her knowledge and passion. “If I can impact [a] mom in a holistic way, by teaching her how to grow her own food for her family, then I can also send that ripple effect throughout the household.”
Since founding her organization, Lee has taught multiple one-day workshops and shared the yield from her farm with community members free of charge. This spring she is taking her service a step further by teaching an eight-week farming and gardening class called Gardening 101. The lessons will incorporate methods of starting and maintaining a garden as well as the history and culture of farming for Black women.
One piece of history that Lee is most excited to share is about her favorite crop — okra. “Our ancestors [placed okra] seeds in braids and that’s how they got [to the United States]. I would like to talk about how resourceful Black women have been and how we can continue to show up in a resourceful way for our families and our communities just by growing our own food.”
To hear more about Growing Food Growing People and what students can expect in Gardening 101, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, or by clicking the play button below.
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to email@example.com.