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FarmerJawn scales up to expand reach and impact

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Christa Barfield, the founder of FarmerJawn Agriculture, a multi-pronged organization that aims to feed wholesome food to marginalized communities while educating the next generation of Black and Brown farmers, will begin leasing the 123-acre farm at the Westtown School in Chester County.

“This land is not a gift, it’s an opportunity,” Barfield says of her five-year lease that she describes as market rate. “This land is a revenue stream for Westtown. FarmerJawn is scaling in order to put organic food in all Philadelphia-area communities starting with the inner city, where nutrient-dense food is needed most.”

Westtown’s previous resident farmer had been leasing the land for 30 years and is now retiring. Even though the farm consisted of diversified crops, conventional practices were used including pesticides and herbicides. Barfield intends to use the same land to advance FarmerJawn’s mission. 

“This is an expansion of FarmerJawn Agriculture, closing the loop of the Philly region food system,” Barfield told Grid. “It’s taking over 100 acres of land once farmed conventionally and doing my environmental duty to heal and transition to regenerative organic.”

Christa Barfield is taking the FarmerJawn operation to a larger scale on 123 acres of land at the Westtown School in West Chester. Photo by Dan Kemper.

Inspired by her travels to the Caribbean island of Martinique, where she witnessed a community-centered food culture, Barfield set out in 2018 to start a business that reflected her new passion. She launched FarmerJawn’s initial operation — a CSA (community supported agriculture) program based on a model with a century-long history in the Black community — in Elkins Park, Montgomery County.

After making the current FarmerJawn CSA profitable, Barfield also recently established the nonprofit FarmerJawn Foundation, which aims to bring urban farming education to schools and any Black or Brown person or group who wants to learn more about it.

“The farm is meant to be an agriculture hub where rural training will take place as a step up from FarmerJawn at Elkins,” she says, “which will focus on being an urban ag training site through the nonprofit.”

With the lease at Westtown, Barfield is ready to expand those efforts and bring nutritious food and farming education to marginalized communities. 

Stewarding land the ‘right’ way as a Black woman is powerful.”

christa barfield, founder of FarmerJawn Agriculture

“I want to feed more people,” she said. “Specifically, I want to feed them regenerative organic food. That has to be the focus to really impact people and planet. Stewarding land the ‘right’ way as a Black woman is powerful.”

One major program she is looking forward to is a food and farming incubator specifically designed to help Black and Brown people learn how they can succeed in agribusiness. In addition to expanding the CSA, she is also hoping to host cooking classes, festivals and farm-to-table meals and develop both a comprehensive agriculture curriculum and partnerships with local universities, particularly with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

“The goal is to connect food systems around Philadelphia and to ensure organic food free from [herbicides] and heavy metals exists in that food system,” she said. “Having a consistent supply of nutrient-dense food is something that is missing in our communities, and it shows.” 

Photo by Drew Dennis.

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