The college of love and charity recently reunited two lovebirds with their favorite classroom, the Florida A&M University Community Garden.
Known for their work in sustainable agricultural practices, the Smarter by Nature urban farming couple Angelique Taylor and David “Kip” Ritchey are modern trailblazers when it comes to facilitating the relationship between “people and the environment.”
Taylor and Ritchey met when they were both students at FAMU during a 2014 trip with their FAMU peers to the People’s Climate March in New York City, a movement to advocate for global action against climate change.
The couple dedicated their efforts to continue to push for sustainable agriculture, advocate for action against climate change, and address the food desert on Tallahassee’s south side.
After the 2014 movement, the couple united 15 other FAMU students to begin land stewarding on their student plots at the university’s community garden lining Orange Avenue, south of campus. The local farmers were able to take lessons from their classrooms along with their personal passions and put them into practice.
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“We started there as a way to put ourselves out there and try to find solutions and spread those out,” Taylor said in an interview with the Tallahassee Democrat.
After years of practice, the couple began working on their leased plots in Quincy, and officially founded Smarter by Nature in December 2017.
“We serve different farmers’ markets. We’ve served the Southside Farmer’s Market, we’ve managed gardens on the south side, and right now we serve the Frenchtown community on Saturdays at the Frenchtown Farmers Market,” Taylor said. They provide shoppers with oyster mushrooms, an assortment of greens, turmeric, ginger, sweet potatoes and more.
They continue providing more food options to the south side of Tallahassee and educate the public by securing public and private growing spaces, launching an educational YouTube channel which features their album “Greens on Deck,” along with gardening tutorials and podcasts. The couple has also sold produce to local cafes and gained up to 20,000 followers on Instagram as others become engaged in the sustainable planting learning process.
Engaging with FAMU’s new agricultural center
Taylor and Ritchey were active participants at the November launch of the Lola Hampton-Frank Pinder Center for Agroecology, an effort involving FAMU and the National Black Food and Justice Alliance.
The Lola Hampton-Frank Pinder Center for Agroecology, named for two “local land stewards and champions of sustainable agriculture,” is housed in the College of Agriculture and Food Sciences and the College of Social Sciences, Arts, and Humanities. It is co-led by FAMU professors Kwasi Densu and Jennifer Taylor, the university said in a release.
“The Lola Hampton-Frank Pinder Center for Agroecology presents such an excellent opportunity to engage our underserved Black farming communities in order to strengthen capacity – to build healthy farm environments, healthy food and healthy food sovereignty systems, and healthy communities. At the same time, this center will engage our students in hands-on learning about organic farming systems, the benefits of organic agriculture and careers in agroecology and integrated areas,” Jennifer Taylor said in a release.
The launch of the center was the backdrop for the FAMUly Roots: Food and Farm festival at the FAMU Community Garden on Nov. 12, bringing together farmers and those interested in gardening, sustainability, and advancements in agriculture.
Jennifer Taylor and Densu, both advocates for wellness and sustainability practices, are looking to aid the population of Black farmers, including the Smarter by Nature couple, when it comes to identifying resources that can help them succeed and to expose them to research.
In helping to establish the Lola Hampton-Frank Pinder Center for Agroecology, the National Black Food and Justice Alliance said the mission is “to grow and expand practices, develop innovative solutions, and provide cross-institutional support for our land grant institutions and future generations of land stewards to carry forward the food system and climate resilience our communities need and deserve.”
Democrat writer Kyla A. Sanford can be reached at email@example.com.