What started as a small garden in her backyard turned into something much more when Robin Emmons decided to combat social inequalities with produce. Her mentally ill brother was living in a facility with little access to fresh foods and his health declined, which forced Emmons to examine the root of the cause. In 2008, she launched Sow Much Good (www.sowmuchgood.org), a nonprofit organization devoted to food justice. This comes through providing low-income communities with locally grown vegetables from the organization's two five-acre farms (in Huntersville and Charlotte). Emmons informs me — and vents her frustrations — about SMG's Sunset Road location (its main market) and how it's currently unable to operate due an ongoing pipeline project by Piedmont Natural Gas. Instead, there are currently pop-up markets at several YMCA spots (McCrorey, Stratford Richardson), Renaissance West Community Initiative and Uptown, in addition to Community Supported Agriculture pick-up and delivery options. An advocate for healthy food getting into the hands of communities that need it, Emmons shares some of her thoughts on how to get involved with food and social justice, as well as info on an upcoming speaking engagement and what she likes to see on her own dinner plate.
Creative Loafing: What's the perfect dinner for you?
Robin Emmons: I am addicted to Luna's Living Kitchen, so anything that they serve on their lunch or dinner menu is always perfection for me. I love their raw-plant based meals. It would be rooted in that concept.
You're a keynote speaker at the upcoming Talon to Table (talontotable.com), a farm to fork event that benefits Carolina Raptor Center. What kind of topics will you be discussing there?
I will definitely be talking about sustainability and really using farming as a platform to do that and the interconnectedness of the work that the Raptor Center is doing and farming and environmentalism and how they are not separate. Nothing is happening in a vacuum. They are all related and interdependent. Of course, I can't help but talk about how specifically the food and our human interconnectedness and that being a kind of fundamental need that is shared among all of us.
What can the average person, unfamiliar with food justice, do to support the cause?
I think that a lot of us who have enjoyed the privilege of accessing any part of the food system that we want for our entire lives think 'Oh, let's just set up a community garden' or 'Let's just build a grocery store in a low income neighborhood' and that will solve the problem. I think coming in with some humility and understanding and listening to needs of the community is important. Many communities, some who even grew up with farms, don't have the capacity to [maintain a community garden] because they are trying to figure out how to keep the lights on and making impossible decisions in day-to-day life. I think it's important to understand the real inequities and that we're either apart of that system or we're pushing against it in every way that we can. That could mean pushing on your local elected officials and using your voice political or otherwise to highlight the inequities and to raise collective consciousness. It could be donating your time with an organization like Sow Much Good to gain understanding. We do real training on food justice and social inequity. So, understanding that and changing the paradigm by using it to support the need of people, outside of your self.