Featured Activists: Produce(n)Protest

Candace Clark and Kandeaux Clark are collaborators, cofounders, and sisters-in-law. They forge connectivity throughout Chicagoland’s diaspora of BIPOC farmers, food artisans, and educators. Their fire is the internet.
 

Kandeaux is a wordsmith, activist farmer, policy wonk, and educator. Candace is systems, networks, codes, and innovation. They joined forces with fellow farmers of color—including Chicago urban hemp and viticulture legend Kenya Sample—to create a movement called Produce(n)Protest and a palette of digital power tools to make it all happen.

Produce(n)Protest asks the most weighted question in community food systems work today: how can activism intersect with agriculture to measurably upend the disparities entrenched in centuries of land-based institutional racism and economic injustice? 

Their answer? By empowering consumers to buy directly from Black and Brown farmers using simple, accessible technology.

“This is the time,” said Kandeaux. “As everyone is focused on building those Black dollars, this work has got to go as deep as the roots in the soil.”

Produce(n)Protest will launch in fall 2020 as an aggregated CSA of BIPOC farm vendors located throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. Candace built an app called Farm Plug from which customers will order their “Solidarity Box” of locally grown food and other local goods for weekly pick-up or delivery. She noted, “People don’t look at farming as a tech-savvy industry, but it’s got to go in that direction,” especially as communities attempt to scale up their support of historically disenfranchised agrarians.

“Too often people at the beginning side of the supply chain are getting left out financially,” said Kandeaux. “That’s got to end.”

According to the USDA’s most recent ag census data, Black principal farmers make up only 1.6% of total principal farmers in the nation—an abysmal number by any measure (although it represents 9% growth since 2007). “These gaps are historical gaps,” said Kandeaux. “BIPOC farmers have been blocked out of land ownership and business ownership throughout American history.”

Produce(n)Protest takes as its mission the dismantling of human exploitation that is endemic to America’s industrial food chains and that has been fully exposed by the 2020 pandemic. Kandeaux noted that farmers and food workers of color are disproportionately disadvantaged by climate change and nutritional disparity throughout the world. This year, the coronavirus just made it all that more visible.

And while the issues are global, its effects are personal and very close to home for these women. In Chicago, Kandeaux noted, the looting and rioting that occurred during the summer of 2020 included stores in neighborhoods where people of color shopped for food. “Some of those stores still haven’t opened back up. People I know are going hungry.”

Farm Plug is itself a bold call to action. The app’s website calls it “an Overground Railroad” and “an initiative that uses agriculture as a form of protest to reduce violence, decrease food deserts, improve human rights and public safety, and remove barriers to wellness.” It is matched by a collection of other digital tools that Candace plans to pilot locally first, and nationally later. She’ll offer features such as live chat and culturally appropriate cooking education—all ways to connect growers and consumers to learn from and with each other. Now in the proof-of-concept phase, Candace expects to be ready for investors in 2021.

Kandeaux noted: “Black and Brown people have always had the most to lose … health, land, knowledge.”

“This is just the beginning of reparations, of justice for those who do the work of growing food.”

Candace is a native of Montgomery, AL, now living in Chicago. After a decade in the IT field, Candace is now a full-time entrepreneur, aligning with powerhouses in social media, software development, and the legal cannabis space. Candace is the founder of Hi Tech Consulting, providing technology and business development consulting to nonprofits, social media influencers, and startups. Candace is also Chief Regulatory and Compliance Officer for the Social Equity Empowerment Network. Candace started her college education at Tuskegee University, majoring in computer science. After marriage and 3 children, Candace completed her BSc in computer science at Troy University in 2019. Candace is also co-chair of NAFSN’s Website Circle.
 
Kandeaux works at Urban Growers Collective, which operates eight urban farms on 11 acres, mostly on Chicago’s Southside. She is a graduate of The Piney Woods School, a historically black boarding school, a Tuskegee University alumna with a BS in Agricultural Business, and a former USDA 1890 Scholar. She is also a graduate of American University’s School of International Service with an MA in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development.  She is currently enrolled in Tuskegee University’s Integrative Public Policy and Development PhD program. She is active with the Chicago Food Policy Council and with Equity and Transformation (EAT).