Kandeaux is a wordsmith, activist farmer, policy wonk, and educator. Candace is systems, networks, codes, and innovation. They joined forces with fellow farmers of color—including Chicago urban hemp and viticulture legend Kenya Sample—to create a movement called Produce(n)Protest and a palette of digital power tools to make it all happen.
Produce(n)Protest asks the most weighted question in community food systems work today: how can activism intersect with agriculture to measurably upend the disparities entrenched in centuries of land-based institutional racism and economic injustice?
Their answer? By empowering consumers to buy directly from Black and Brown farmers using simple, accessible technology.
“This is the time,” said Kandeaux. “As everyone is focused on building those Black dollars, this work has got to go as deep as the roots in the soil.”
Produce(n)Protest will launch in fall 2020 as an aggregated CSA of BIPOC farm vendors located throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. Candace built an app called Farm Plug from which customers will order their “Solidarity Box” of locally grown food and other local goods for weekly pick-up or delivery. She noted, “People don’t look at farming as a tech-savvy industry, but it’s got to go in that direction,” especially as communities attempt to scale up their support of historically disenfranchised agrarians.
“Too often people at the beginning side of the supply chain are getting left out financially,” said Kandeaux. “That’s got to end.”
According to the USDA’s most recent ag census data, Black principal farmers make up only 1.6% of total principal farmers in the nation—an abysmal number by any measure (although it represents 9% growth since 2007). “These gaps are historical gaps,” said Kandeaux. “BIPOC farmers have been blocked out of land ownership and business ownership throughout American history.”
Produce(n)Protest takes as its mission the dismantling of human exploitation that is endemic to America’s industrial food chains and that has been fully exposed by the 2020 pandemic. Kandeaux noted that farmers and food workers of color are disproportionately disadvantaged by climate change and nutritional disparity throughout the world. This year, the coronavirus just made it all that more visible.
And while the issues are global, its effects are personal and very close to home for these women. In Chicago, Kandeaux noted, the looting and rioting that occurred during the summer of 2020 included stores in neighborhoods where people of color shopped for food. “Some of those stores still haven’t opened back up. People I know are going hungry.”
Farm Plug is itself a bold call to action. The app’s website calls it “an Overground Railroad” and “an initiative that uses agriculture as a form of protest to reduce violence, decrease food deserts, improve human rights and public safety, and remove barriers to wellness.” It is matched by a collection of other digital tools that Candace plans to pilot locally first, and nationally later. She’ll offer features such as live chat and culturally appropriate cooking education—all ways to connect growers and consumers to learn from and with each other. Now in the proof-of-concept phase, Candace expects to be ready for investors in 2021.
Kandeaux noted: “Black and Brown people have always had the most to lose … health, land, knowledge.”
“This is just the beginning of reparations, of justice for those who do the work of growing food.”