We can trace all of our fresh food back to a farm. And of course, with every farm, comes a farmer (often many helping hands). We wanted to bring you stories of farmers and their farms to help everyone get to know their farmer and to connect you to the stories of your food’s early days. This is one of the most inspiring stories we have come across thus far:
Living Stones Community Farm was born from the belief that there should be love, nourishment, work and hope for every human being. Started by Amy Heath after the pain of a family members’ incarceration, this 3-acre farm now provides meaningful work and a welcoming community to recently incarcerated individuals. In 2004, one of Amy’s family members was tried, convicted, and incarcerated. It was a shock to the whole family, having never experienced anything like it, it was terrifying. Over time, however, she along with the rest of her family, realized they were surviving this.
Interestingly, the year her family member was incarcerated, Amy earned her spot as an Associate Pastor. With her faith and her entrepreneurial spirit in tow, Amy began to push forward and learn all she could about the lives of previously incarcerated individuals, to figure out a way to help her loved one upon his return. She learned that the the greatest obstacles people face when released are: employment, housing, and transportation. These difficulties contribute to a high rate of recidivism. She wanted to give people the opportunity to not only be employed, but to make a difference, and do it publicly so that the general public would begin to trust and open their hearts to these people again.
In her research, she stumbled upon the now famous farmer and educator, Will Allen, Founder of Growing Power, Inc.. His work focused on educating and empowering youth to grow their own food in areas often considered “food deserts”. Just as Will Allen had brought meaningful work and healthy food to low-income young people, she could start a similar program for recently incarcerated individuals. She began to educate herself, commuting to and from Milwaukee, and finished Will Allen’s Urban Agriculture Training Program. Upon completion, she began renting land from her church, and bravely began Living Stones Community Farm.
Pointing to the rows of burgeoning vegetable plants, Amy exclaims “This is their sweat and hard work.”. She asks her self aloud “Would I want to be remembered for the worst thing I ever did?”. “No” she answers. She wants to give people the opportunity to be remembered for their contributions. She created a place where they could find work, in an environment of non-judgment. She recounts the story of a man who arrived in early January to the field in a thin jacket who upon being welcomed by the group said, “It’s just good to be welcomed.”