TCP caught up with Brittany Jones, newly elected Chair of the Urban Agriculture Alliance of Lucas County, to hear what’s sprouting in the vegetable world. As a third-year PhD student in the Spatially Integrated Social Sciences program at UT, with a Master’s degree in Urban Planning from Wayne State University, Jones grafts science and academia with farming and community organizing.
Years lived in Toledo: I was born and raised here! I only lived away from Toledo while attending college.
Occupation: Graduate Research Assistant for The Jack Ford Urban Affairs Center.
My story, in one sentence: Once I got out of my own way, I realized my worth.
One song lyric to describe my ideal self: “I have a hoe; And I take it everywhere I go; Cause I’m plantin’ seeds so I reaps what I sow, ya know, ya know” — Erykah badu, Apple Tree (1997)
What I’m doing, and what I want to achieve: I am trying to graduate! My research surrounding land transfers, urban agriculture, and the impact of Black foodways may allow me to be that expert and business owner dedicated to helping municipalities bring equity (economic and social) to their food system through policies, programs and education.
If I could change one thing about Toledo: The crabs in a barrel mentality. This is what is stopping our progression as a city and (stunting) our place in the global society.
If I knew I could get away with it, I would: Try to rig the Powerball and MegaMillions!
When I’m craving Asian cuisine, I go to: Jing Chuan, Bangkok Kitchen, Koreana, or Kyoto Ka.
The Toledoan I’ve met in passing that I’d love to get coffee with: Diana Patton. She seems to be so in alignment with herself and confident in where she is headed.
The Toledoan I most admire: Besides my mom, it’s really between Rhonda Sewell and Ashley Futrell. They are dynamic women and forces to be reckoned with!
My favorite local people to follow on social media are: Sonia Organics, Mighty Organics, Toledo Foodie, Candied Culture, Toledo Yogis of Color and of course my family and friends!
How did you come to take an interest in urban agriculture?
Connection to the soil has always been within me, beginning with my grandparent’s garden behind their home in the Junction neighborhood. At an early age, I began to understand the importance of self-reliance through growing food. Fast forward to Wayne State, food systems planning caught my attention. Since then, I have dedicated my efforts towards an equitable and diversified food system.
Tell us a little bit about the Urban Agriculture Alliance of Lucas County (UAALC).
We are a voice for urban growers and farmers, focusing on education and policy change. Founded in 2017 by supporters of Thomas Jackson (an urban farmer) during his battle with the City, we function as an advocacy group dedicated to the implementation and growth of urban agriculture for the health of all citizens.
So what is the UAA currently working on?
Some of our current efforts include improving soil yields through a composted leaf delivery program, simplifying the hoop house permitting process so that year-round growing is possible, creation of an urban agriculture network, establishing tax abatements for vacant lots that are converted to growing sites and the creation of an urban agriculture zoning classification. We’re also working on an ordinance concerning the adoption of alternative mosquito spraying methods because the sprays that are currently being used are hazardous to pollinators and water quality.
Why should Toledoans care about urban agriculture?
Food is not food anymore. Our global food system is all about mass production, which means more synthetic, genetically modified, pesticide-induced products. Our health is suffering because of these types of operations.
We also cannot forget that our small and medium traditional farmers are being forced to sell their acres of land to corporations because of the expenses involved that keep them from competing. The shrinking number of farms means (that the demands of consumers have) less impact on what ends up in our stores and on our plates.
This work is also critical considering the threats to our ecosystem and natural resources; we are experiencing food shortages now due to weather and supplier delays. Growing food closer to its consumers provides security in more ways than one.
What is your vision of a better Toledo?
My vision includes a right to data and information because without it we can’t plan for a long-lasting future that does not reproduce prejudice or discrimination— spatially, socially, and economically. It includes Toledoans practicing our right to self-governance and recognizing the power we hold when it comes to shaping and directing change for our community.
It also includes more emphasis on welcoming new industries and entrepreneurship opportunities, especially with the environment and agriculture. This means integrating credible and relevant education that prepares students for these industries, including urban planning, geography (my field), and other technical careers— not just for children, but for adults who are beginning, changing, or returning to employment.
The Urban Agriculture Alliance of Lucas County’s next public meeting is Tuesday, February 25 from 6-8PM at Monroe Street United Methodist Church (3613 Monroe St.). Seeking urban farmers throughout Lucas County to create a registry of urban agriculture operations. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.