Building an Oasis in Central Virginia Food Desert with Help from CDFI
Client: Tyrone Cherry III, Duron Chavis, and Central Virginia Agrarian Commons
Client Location: Petersburg, VA
CDFI: Foodshed Capital
CDFI Service Area: VA
Land acquisition financing
Tyrone Cherry, a well-respected and influential member of the Petersburg County community, sought to create an agricultural space that would provide healthy food and educational space for beginner farmers and local children.
When a five-acre urban farm became available in a classified food desert, Tyrone saw the opportunity to provide a food oasis not only to local farmers but also to nearby elementary and middle schools. He wanted to help his community reconnect with the environment and solve the city’s issues with food access.
Through Duron Chavis, co-director of the project, Tyrone was introduced to Agrarian Commons, a land-holding entity whose model secures equitable 99-year lease tenures for small-scale farmers. Soon after, the Petersburg Oasis CommUNITY Farm project was born.
“That’s why we’re calling it the Petersburg Oasis,” explained Cherry. “We want to remind the community that, yes, we are in a situation that’s called a ‘food desert,’ but we can grow an oasis here in the food desert together.”
Foodshed Capital began working with Tyrone and Duron through its partnership with Agrarian Commons, whose mission is to hold land for agricultural preservation and fill funding gaps that arise during the land purchase process. Both organizations are natural fits to support this project, as Foodshed Capital is committed to working with farmers and nimbly providing capital in a time crunch while Agrarian Commons focuses on fundraising.
The Petersburg project was the perfect opportunity to put this partnership into practice and support Tyrone and Duron’s expansion. They received a 0% loan with flexible repayment terms, which they were unable to secure through mainstream lending. Tyrone and Duron’s purchase of the farm ensures that the land will never be bought or sold again and remain an ecologically sound food supply.
“We’re so inspired by the work Duron and Tyrone are doing here in central Virginia. As educators and truth-tellers, they are getting urban kids excited about growing food, increasing community access to food, and creating space for BIPOC farmers to learn and launch their own farming enterprises. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say their work at Petersburg Oasis CommUNITY Farm will launch a whole new generation of BIPOC farmers in our region. We are so proud to support anything they touch, and really looking forward to seeing their vision unfold.” Foodshed Capital said.