American Heart Association Launches Business Program To Support Black Maryland Farmers

American Heart Association Launches Business Program To Support Black Maryland Farmers

The American Heart Association and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield are launching a business accelerator program to benefit the two percent of Black farmers in Maryland.

The first-time program is called EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator for Maryland Black Farmers. Its mission is to provide solutions to areas facing food inequities in Maryland, CBS News reported, while empowering Black farmers.

“Farming is more than just food in the ground now,” said Rhonda Ford Chatmon, vice president of health strategies with the American Heart Association of Baltimore & Greater Maryland division. “It just allows them to do more—that are more committed to and that they’re here to serve.”

As with many Black-owned businesses, lack of growth and sustainability are key factors in the low percentage of Black farmers, an issue the accelerator program seeks to fix. 

“Part of the work we do as a Heart Association is teaching them what to do with that nutritious food but also help people build capacity to grow, to supply their own needs,” Ford Chatmon said.

The EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerators have found success in previous years, offering support to social entrepreneurs, community ambassadors, organizations, and individuals committed to positively impacting community health.

Cynthia Wallace, executive director of The Oasis Project in Pittsburgh, participated in the accelerator’s faith-based program in 2021.

“I think nutrition is something that is really not only about eating the food to people but talking to them about why eating healthy is so good for you just holistically,” Wallace said.

Operating in the city’s predominately Black Homewood neighborhood, the Oasis Farm & Fishery provides urban farming education to people of all ages at three different locations.

In Maryland’s historically Black neighborhoods of East and West Baltimore, one in four residents live in areas with limited access to fresh produce. Urban farming and community efforts to provide healthy options to the city’s residents are integral to bridging the gap between socioeconomic status and lack of nutritional food.

RELATED CONTENT: Bronny James Diagnosed With Congenital Heart Defect, Full Recovery Expected