by Akin Carter, Co-Founder, Black Oaks Center
Hello, my name is Akin Carter. I’m a 24-year-old regenerative farmer and co-founder of Black Oaks Center (BOC). BOC is a 501(c)3 founded in 2006 that focuses on facilitating communities in navigating a climate uncertain, resource-constrained future. Our four skill-building tracks at the heart of BOC are:
- Sustainable Agriculture,
- Sustainable Building,
- Renewable Energy,
BOC’s 40-acre campus in Pembroke Township IL hosts training and educational events. From teaching Permaculture to Biodiesel, the organization’s aim is to empower the people with the knowledge and skills to build self-reliant and resilient communities. My main passion is farming. Our Teaching Field is an 8-acre plot in organic transition, growing mainly vegetables. The harvest is sold through the Healthy Food Hub (HFH) and restaurants. The HFH started out as a Farmers Market/eater operated CSA founded in 2009.
The food hub began in my mother’s medical practice, Dr. Jifunza Wright M.D., M.P.H. Her desire was to make high quality produce more accessible for her patients. A huge part of my mother’s medical practice is working with patients to support them in self-care to manage their illness. A large part of that is using the food we grow as medicine. At the beginning of the pandemic, we distributed over 50,000 Farm to Family Boxes from the west side of Chicago to Pembroke Township in partnership with Gorilla Gourmet & Midwest Foods along with 9 federally qualified health centers, CBOs, and municipalities. The Healthy Food Hub went Mobile Market via our trolley in the fall to continue to get healthy foods to high risk COVID communities.
Since December 2020, we have issued over 1500 RX Bags through our community food security, Immunity in the CommUnity campaign. Each of these Rx Bags has been sponsored by donations from fellow community members, CBOs, and businesses. The content in each bag are foods that help support families in strengthening their defenses against COVID. Healthy nutritious recipes are on the website: www.healthyfoodhub.org. In addition, we are caring for the front line workers. They can get more healthy food for less at our online market with trolley stops pick up or delivery. We also take LINK MATCH. Our customers can get $20 worth of food for 10 LINK dollars.
I am looking forward to this upcoming growing season this year. I plan on expanding production to 60 acres. I will be trying out for the first time: cattle, grains, and establishing fruit groves. I am being trained in Agroforestry through our partnership with Savanna Institute. Please stay tuned to our facebook and instagram pages for learning days. If you are interested in farmer training we will be having a lot of training going on this year. I am excited about using techniques like strip intercropping in the hopes to sustainably increase my yields. The ultimate goal is to have at least 1000 acres in organic transition, and agroforestry.