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A St. Louis farmer wants more north city residents to grow their own food

A Black woman smiles while standing in her garden.
Theo R. Welling
St. Louis Public Radio
Tosha Phonix is photographed on Thursday at her farm in St. Louis’ Walnut Park neighborhood. Phonix is encouraging north St. Louis city residents to start their own gardens this summer.

Tosha Phonix loves tropical fruits, and this growing season, she hopes to grow some successfully at her St. Louis farm.

While figuring out how to create the perfect climate for a mango tree, Phoenix will also be encouraging her fellow north city residents to grow their own food through her new zine, “A Guide to Black Farming in North St. Louis.”

The mini-publication is also meant to connect people to local farmers.

“[There is a] misconception that there are no Black people farming,” Phonix said. “We've always been in the community growing food. But nobody was supporting those efforts.”

Phonix currently runs two farms: one in the Fairground Park neighborhood and another in Walnut Park. Both are part of her nonprofit Agriculture for Community Restoration Economic Justice and Sustainability, which works to support Black farmers’ access to funds, resources and education.

She is also fundraising to open a community-run grocery store in Fairground Park that would carry local farmers’ produce.

“When we see businesses leaving our city, when we see nobody trying to invest, it's all connected to redlining, and the idea that there's no money here or there's nothing to be made,” Phonix said. “So instead of begging these institutions to come back, what would it look like if we galvanized our power and started creating our own businesses?”

Phonix’s work – feeding and building her community – is driven by her passion for food justice.

“Food justice to me is just a basic [tenet] of having self determination of your food environment,” she said.

To hear more from Tosha Phonix about why support for Black farmers in St. Louis is important, listen to the full St. Louis on the Air conversation on Apple Podcast, Spotify and YouTube, or click the play button below.

How to support local farmers and learn from them

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 Ulaa Kuziez, Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Roshae Hemmings is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr

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Ulaa Kuziez is a junior studying Journalism and Media at Saint Louis University. She enjoys storytelling and has worked with various student publications. In her free time, you can find her at local parks and libraries with her nephews.