COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — One Central Ohio woman is connecting food with community and using her passion for agriculture to unite.
Yolanda Owens, whose family grew up in North Carolina where they had a greenhouse and smokehouse, said from a young age watching her grandmother grow something from a tiny seed, she knew that experience would sprout a mission to serve her communities.
“Whether you’re white, black, brown, red, man, woman, non-binary — we all have to eat,” says Owens of the power of food to bring people together. “As more people are engaged, then we can diversify the types of foods we’re growing, we can diversify what a farmer looks like.”
Of the many hats she wears, Owens is the first woman of color to serve as the President of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences Alumni Society.
During her time as a Buckeye, Owens re-imagined what she wanted agriculture to look like.
“Being able to make spaces for folks that look like me to want to connect, I think is really important,” Owens admits.
Now, as a Pickerington resident and mom of two, Owens’ vision is leading the transformation of land in Violet Township into a community garden.
“I want to create a world where I feel comfortable and know that my children can thrive in that space,” says Owens of her efforts to engage more minorities with agriculture.
The community garden will include a plot for the Pickerington senior center and will also benefit local food pantries.
Other community organizations like the Boys & Girls club have also promised resources to help build the plots.
However, for Owens, community engagement is only the first piece of the expanded education puzzle
“One of my huge dreams and huge goals is to see agricultural education integrated into the classroom,” Owens hopes.
But small steps, like the community garden, play a big role in assuring healthy food supply for everyone.
“[We’re] wanting to really engage all aspects of the community and make this an intergenerational project,” says Owens. “And how fun that can actually be in watching something and having that ability to grow.”
With plenty of work to be done, efforts like this are just a plot in the land of her larger mission.
“While I can’t speak for everyone, I can at least lend my voice and to be able to show what our communities look like and what we want,” Owens says.
Owens says making sure that everyone has something to eat has always been near and dear to her heart, and what better way than to give people who don’t know how or don’t have access to healthy food the means to grow it themselves.
A member of numerous organizations, Owens also owns her own ag-friendly apparel company called “Forage and black.”