How Austin nonprofit Black Lives Veggies grows community and health food access –

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Growing a movement starts with the initial planting of a seed. That logic has become the framework of Austin nonprofit Black Lives Veggies, an organization launched to promote food sustainability and entrepreneurship for disenfranchised communities.

Lifelong Austinite Larry Franklin founded Black Lives Veggies in summer 2020 as a way of teaching people of all income levels the art of gardening. (KXAN Photo/Kelsey Thompson)

Larry Franklin and Johnny Jefferson launched Black Lives Veggies in summer 2020, in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests rippling across the country and the pandemic-spurred renewed interest in DIY gardening.

The nonprofit’s premise is rooted in financial accessibility for prospective gardeners, achieved by lowering the costs of organic vegetables and hosting educational classes to teach the craft to beginners.

“There is a collection of people that have, and are currently still being oppressed by the system, which does things like concentrates a certain type of person, skin color and gender into certain types of categories within our economics society,” he said. “So when you hear Black Lives Veggies, it’s a movement. It’s a movement of the underdog to use the power of the people to get in the game. And then once you’re in the game, you diversify the system.”

But the idea for the nonprofit dates back further, to when Franklin was running an initial prototype of a gardening initiative, specializing in garden beds.

While the endeavor wasn’t profitable, Franklin saw the interest in gardening and knew the potential for a grassroots gardening nonprofit would appeal to residents.

“It’s a movement of the underdog to use the power of the people to get in the game. And then once you’re in the game, you diversify the system.”Larry franklin, black lives veggies nonprofit founder

“I was like ‘hey, people really want to eat vegetables. And they like these cool boxes I’m designing,'” he said. “I need financial help in order to keep supplying the community.”

With the help of some friends and their financial backing, Franklin went the 1023 EZ application route, a more streamlined nonprofit application form that requires a fiscal sponsor.

The nonprofit model for Black Lives Veggies is a four-tiered approach: growing vegetables in a community garden expands to growing gardens across different sites, which then becomes growing a business that generates profit while growing a movement that teaches people self-sufficiency and life skills.

“If we want to talk about necessities that men, women and animals need, there are only a few things that come to mind, and one of those things is food,” he said. “So why not learn the entrepreneurship aspect of growing your own food and then turning around and reselling it?”

The appeal to customers is providing vegetables at an affordable price, improving people’s health while also increasing product availability to all income levels. Vegetables run for $2 online, with starter kits available for customers to access seeds, soil and pots. Current vegetables offered include spinach, broccoli, kale and swiss chard.

While the nonprofit looks to expand its reach, Black Lives Veggies launched a GoFundMe page to help collect additional funding for gardening materials and operational tools. As a lifelong Austinite, Franklin said the ultimate goal for Black Lives Veggies is to give back to the same community that raised and supported him.

After serving five years in a penitentiary for dealing drugs, Franklin’s first job post-incarceration was as a gardener. It was the loyalty and faith his community had in him, Franklin said, that he’s looking to pour into each customer Black Lives Veggies serves.

“It’s okay to doubt, it’s okay to fear, it’s okay to wonder,” he said. “The main thing is don’t let it get to you, don’t let it take control of you. You know, if you’ve got a vision, if you believe in something and believe in it to the point to where you sacrifice your entire self for it, walk through it, man.”

Reach KXAN’s digital reporter Kelsey Thompson by email at [email protected], by phone at 512-703-5300 or find her on Twitter.

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