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Conversations with Gerald Harris

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gerald Harris.

Hi Gerald, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
Tall Grass Food Box is a platform to support and encourage the sustainability of Black farmers, by increasing their visibility and securing space for them in the local marketplace. Gabrielle E. W. Carter, chef and cultural preservationist who created the Revival Taste Collective and also one of my partners at TGFB, was having a conversation in late March with one of our friends that family owns a restaurant in Durham. They were talking about how lots of restaurants at that time were shutting down, going on furlough, and just trying to make ends meet. Gabrielle and our other partner, educator, multidisciplinary artist, and community organizer who co-founded the Black August In The Park, Derrick Beasley, came up with the idea to create a newsletter highlighting Black-owned restaurants in the Triangle area and ways to support them during the pandemic. That conversation advanced to if restaurants are having to figure this out, then what is going on with the belly of chain supply. And that foundation led us to a conversation around Black farmers.

Due to the pandemic, farmers were being furloughed, losing vital contracts and huge purchase orders and with the absence of farmers’ markets, they were now left with an overwhelming amount of unsold produce during peak harvest season. Their fields were quickly becoming money pits leaving these farmers in a need of a new marketplace.

In a time where small businesses have become even more vulnerable, it is important that we double down in our support of Black farmers. In this vein, we sought to build a capacity for self-determination within our local food systems. So we created a Community Supportive Agricultural business to be our agent of support.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Imagine three people creating a business that has never created a business before. Then imagine the idea of creating that business in the middle of a pandemic. Talk about building the plane as we fly. Developing a mission statement and purpose. Researching the field. Conceptualizing our unique offering. Reaching out to community members for feedback and support. Developing our business model. Identifying initial funding sources. Writing an action plan and stick to it!

It’s been one of the most beautiful and challenging things we’ve ever been a part of. And in that same vein and more importantly, it’s been the most rewarding. We have learned so much over the last year and 5 months. About ourselves. What it means to build the trust of a community. And how to enlist new resources and allies. And how to expand services based on the needs of the community.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
Our goals with Tall Grass Food Box are to:

1. Facilitate a marketplace, while easing the strain on the distribution capacity of individual farmers.

2. Share each farmer’s individual system for direct purchase, in hopes to form a relationship between individual consumers and farmers.

3. Provide vessels for fresh food for the communities that need them the most.

4. Expand the narrative around black food sovereignty and self-determining food economies.

At the forefront is of course the need to facilitate a marketplace and provide fresh food to the communities that need it the most. We also wanted to create a CSA model that small farmers could afford to participate in, which is where us paying farmers at retail or as close to retail, instead of wholesale prices was and is key to the operation and success. I think this also is a reason what the community felt eager to support. It also set us apart from many CSAs in the area.

We are extremely proud of the finances we have been able to put directly in the hands of Black farmers since March 2020. We are also proud of the community organizations we’ve been able to partner with within an effort to provide fresh produce to communities and spaces that need it the most. Examples of those organizations is the Mustard Seed Project and Carolina Farm Stewardship Association.

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
1. Self-care is not self-indulgence.

2. Celebrating the little things mean so much.

3. My partner in life/wife, Melanie Bullock Harris, is even more amazing than I could have ever imagined/dream. She’s made pandemic bearable, even on days I was not.

4. The value of a loving pet became apparent. Mika, our 6-year-old Chug (Chihuahua/Pug mix), brought us through many challenging days.

5. Companion planting in gardening and agriculture is the planting of different crops in proximity for any of a number of different reasons, including pest control, pollination, providing habitat for beneficial insects, maximizing the use of space, and increasing crop productivity. When I think of companion planting, I think of community and the importance of it in a time like this.

6. Onion and garlic are essential. They make everything taste better. As a combination, they are filled with vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, folate, thiamine, calcium, phosphorous, copper, and manganese.

7. Derrick Beasley and Gabrielle E. W. Carter are both gems of the Triangle community and the space of agriculture in general. And I appreciate them allowing me to be their partner in Tall Grass Food Box.


  • $50.00 – bi-weekly produce boxes

Contact Info:

Image Credits

Derrick Beasley
Rebecca Levine
Derrick Beasley Gabrielle E.W.
Jade Wilson

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