Dreams come true
Posted on May 19, 2020
FVSU alumna, Kennise “Latricia” Elder, and her partner, Kwesi Elder, on the site of their urban farm.
Horticulture graduate builds garden in Atlanta
In 2019, the Atlanta Journal Constitution released an article titled Five Black–Owned Businesses Killing the Agriculture Game Right Now.
Fort Valley State University alumna Kennise “Latricia” Elder, owner of Georgia Roots Urban Farm LLC, was one of the five featured southern entrepreneurs.
Elder, a 2014 horticulture graduate, said she had a dream in 2008 that revealed to her that she needed to attend Fort Valley State University.
“Literally in the dream I heard ‘Attend Fort Valley State University and learn the science of the land,’” Elder said.
The Atlanta native left the city with her son in 2009, enrolled him in school in Peach County, while simultaneously working nights as a home health aide.
“I came on faith. I didn’t have money or anything like that. It was just something that I knew I was supposed to do,” she said.
Elder admits that returning to school was a challenge, but it allowed her to see her strength. “It made me realize that my rubber band had a lot more room in it for me to stretch,” Elder said, describing her ability to balance school, parenting and a job.
While matriculating through the program, the College of Agriculture graduate said she received a top of the line agriculture education.
“I realized once I left the university, there really wasn’t a question that someone could ask me about agriculture that I couldn’t answer,” she said.
As a horticulture major who specialized in fruit and vegetable production, Elder accredits the hands-on experiences at FVSU for providing her with a depth of knowledge. Some of the activities she recalls include laying out the rows for the 18-acre holistic organic farm, constructing hoop houses and harvesting pecans.
“I was pretty well versed,” Elder said, expressing her opportunities within the College. She also participated in a summer internship in Fresno, California with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Likewise she visited Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to learn from Will Allen, owner of Growing Power, a nonprofit organization that specializes in urban farming.
Dr. James Brown, a FVSU professor of horticulture who taught Elder, said he remembers how Elder took initiative early. “She’s always had passion and she’s doing exactly what she wanted to do,” Brown said, referencing Elders’ entrepreneurial pursuits.
Hence, Brown was not surprised when Elder purchased land before graduating in 2012.
Kennise and her husband, Kwesi Elder, purchased 10 acres of property in Bibb County. In 2015, the Elder’s sold a portion of the property because of eminent domain, but remained farming at the smaller plot to stay current and active in agriculture.
As time progressed, the couple heard about a plot of land in Atlanta. With a desire to join the urban farming movement, the couple decided to take their talents to the city.
“At our age, we’re too young to take a settle down project. We decided since we are from Atlanta, we needed to go to Atlanta to do this project,” she said, referencing her and her husband’s desire to conduct food production in the city.
In June 2019, Georgia Roots Urban Farm LLC, became an official farm store. The College Park- based farm produces leafy greens to include kale, collards and arugula, along with microgreens such as wheat grass and sunflower shoots. It is also home to nearly a dozen hoop houses and space where they educate the community.
“Our goal with this project is to show production in a city because you don’t have a lot of spaces where people can grow and produce food that really affects communities” Elder said.
For the past three years, Georgia Roots Urban Farm partners with the city for its annual turkey giveaway. In 2019, the Elders’ partnered with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and rapper TI during the annual turkey giveaway by supplying the vegetables for the event. Elder said connecting with the community for this event has led to discussions about collaborating in the city for additional projects.
Overall, the 44-year-old said she enjoys being a business owner and the opportunities it brings.
“Farming allows you to have access to spaces where you wouldn’t have access. I’ve found that I am able to walk in spaces and immediately walk to the front of the line,” she said.
For more information about Georgia Roots Urban Farm LLC, visit https://bit.ly/2sz2tdc or call 478-287-5004.
- FVSU Agriculture College