Campus News

Eligible UK Employees Can Now Participate in New CSA Pilot to Support Black Farmers

Photo by Photo by Sarah Caton Walters
Photo by Sarah Caton Walters.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 17, 2021) — Eligible employees have another chance to participate in community supported agriculture (CSA) and enjoy fresh produce this season through a new pilot initiative. The Food Connection in University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Food and Environment, The UK Cornerstone Community Innovation Partnership, UK Supplier Diversity and HR UK Health and Wellness are proud to announce their partnership with Black Soil: Our Better Nature to offer a pilot voucher program for its CSA shares.

The Black Soil CSA Pilot will:

  • Support Black farmers in the state of Kentucky through cooperative economics.
  • Give UK employees a second offering for fresh seasonal produce.
  • Educate UK employees on the history of Black farming in Kentucky past and present.
  • Further intentional efforts in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
  • Contribute to building a better Commonwealth.

“The community shared agriculture (CSA) pilot with Black Soil is deeply tied to the University of Kentucky’s intentional efforts to build diversity, equity and inclusion into everything we do. It is also about UK, a land-grant institution, bringing to life the history of Black farmers and the legacy they have to the land and to life in the Commonwealth,” said Marilyn Clark, UK’s supplier diversity manager. “This collaboration between the college of agriculture, purchasing and supplier diversity, human resources and The Cornerstone, shows what is possible when we work together for a common purpose.”

To participate in the Farm Share Diversity Pilot Program UK employees can register for a voucher that supports your purchase of a full-season subscription to receive fresh, locally grown produce from Kentucky farmers. Just like a standard CSA you will receive:

  • A box of locally grown vegetables (and occasionally fruits) delivered weekly to a convenient pickup location.
  • Opportunities to get to know your local farmers and learn more about where your food comes from.
  • Tips, recipes and workshops for learning ways to use and store the produce in your weekly shares.

The mission of Black Soil is to reconnect Black Kentuckians to their legacy and heritage in agriculture. Representing 1.4% of the primary farm operators in the state, Black farmers account for less than 600 of the more than 76,000 agricultural operations in Kentucky. Black Soil’s vision is to help foster a greater market share for Black farmers and producers as they provide healthy food options to a larger consumer base.

“Black Soil: Our Better Nature is an invaluable partner in growing a resilient and equitable agriculture and food system in Kentucky," said Lilian Brislen, executive director of The Food Connection. “We’re excited to work with them this season to highlight the farmers and chefs in their network, and help our campus community discover the many joys of seasonal eating.”

“Initiatives like this really are a team effort,” Clark said. “I couldn’t be prouder of Ashley Smith and her team at Black Soil and their ongoing efforts to tell the stories and share the history of Black farmers in Kentucky. Additionally, Barry Swanson, UK’s chief procurement officer, worked silently in the background to make this happen. He led the charge and gave his full support to this project. He is a true champion for DEI.”

Highlighting the partnership between The Cornerstone and Black Soil, The Cornerstone innovation space will be one of the pickup locations offered to individuals who purchase a Black Soil CSA share. “We are excited to be able to help facilitate connecting UK employees with healthy local produce and support diversity both on campus and in the community, while highlighting the mission of The Cornerstone to be a home for innovation and community engagement,” said Melody Flowers, executive director for UK's Strategic Analysis and Policy.

“We are looking forward to support this CSA pilot initiative with Black Soil. This pilot will reinforce our continued development of the UK Health and Wellness CSA Voucher program in a way that will support the wellness of our employees and the diversity of the regional agricultural economy,” says Jody Ensman, HR manager of Health and Wellness.

There are an equivalent of 50 full vouchers available, and they will be honored on a first-come, first-served basis from May 8-28. For more information on eligibility, pickup locations, costs and other information visit https://foodconnection.ca.uky.edu/blacksoilcsa.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.