How has COVID-19 impacted student and alumni affairs at Duke? 

We have gone through a very minimal process in person. That has been different, and a blessing in disguise, because we have been able to be more creative in how we navigate and engage our community as a whole. Mentorship is a big part of my job: Looking at ways we can engage students and alums and finding places to network, as well as providing skills and tips on life, because a lot of people are in transition—especially more recent and younger alums. 

What’s Tall Grass Food Box? 

It’s a platform that we created, [similar to] a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, where we encourage the sustainability of Black farmers by increasing their visibility and making sure that they have space within the local marketplace. There are a lot of obstacles out there from a systematic nature, so we wanted to make sure that as we look at Black food systems, we can continue to tell the narrative of Black farmers in North Carolina. CSAs give people an opportunity to buy local through shares of produce and food boxes. What makes us different as a CSA is that we pay our farmers retail, or close to retail, for their produce. We wanted to make sure the farmers were getting compensated at their worth and not wholesale. 

Where did the idea come from? 

Gabrielle E. W. Carter, one of my partners at Tall Grass, was having a conversation in late March with the owner of Goorsha, a Durham restaurant. They were talking about how lots of restaurants at that time were shutting down, going on furlough, and just trying to make ends meet. Gabrielle and my other partner, Derrick Beasley, came up with the idea to create a newsletter highlighting Black-owned restaurants in the Durham area and ways to support them during the pandemic. That conversation then went from “How are restaurants doing?” to “How is the rest of the food system doing?” This brought the conversation around to Black farmers. 

What drew you personally to this cause? 

My connection with agriculture goes back to how I grew up. I’m originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, but I spent a lot of my time in Fordyce, Arkansas. My father grew up on a farm, which automatically makes me a farm kid. Anytime I went to see my grandparents, I was around agriculture and was putting in work.

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