When you hear the words locally grown, organic, and sustainably produced, what comes to mind? If you’re conjuring images of Birkenstock wearing, granola eating hipsters—think again.
Kay Bell, President of National Women in Agriculture Association (Waco, TX chapter), and founder of Global Revive, has dedicated her life to changing the way Texans view and approach growing our own food. Through her work with both the NWAA and Global Revive, she provides leadership, coaching and encouragement to local and state-wide community members, convincing people from all backgrounds to consider becoming an agricultural entrepreneur.
“Nutrition is an important issue because it’s the healing component in our body. If we aren’t healthy we can’t function in society. We need to know where our food comes from and understand what exactly we are putting in our bodies,” explained Bell.
Bell established the NWAA’s Waco chapter just one year ago and has already received several grants from the Department of Agriculture, sparking a movement in East Waco and beyond. She views agriculture as an opportunity to level entrepreneurial playing field, opening opportunities to anybody:
“The ground doesn’t care where you’ve been. A tractor or tiller doesn’t care where you’ve been. We seek to empower those individuals to make money. One key focus area includes finding heritage property that has lain dormant—we need to cultivate it because it’s our history.”
The African American Chamber of Commerce has developed a partnership with Bell to support her efforts. Laveda Brown, the Chamber’s CEO, sees Bell’s objectives as perfectly aligned with the goals that guide her organization.
“So far, the growth Waco’s experienced has mainly been limited to a privileged demographic, but I have seen it as strategically disempowering to the working poor who have driven this growth for decades. Waco was built on a plantation economy and in many cases we still have that plantation rake mentality, where we pull all the resources in one direction, failing to push anything back out,” said Brown.
As Start Up Waco gathers momentum in the community, a key objective is to raise the visibility of the important work already happening in support of startups and entrepreneurs. Bell’s focus on agriculture and nutrition plays a vital role in developing this important segment of the Waco economy.
Greg Leman, Executive Director of Start Up Waco, elaborates:
“Kay provides a great example of a highly effective support organization within our ecosystem that is, unfortunately, almost invisible to other support organizations around her. Kay can benefit from the connections and expertise of others and vice versa—the same is true for her clients. Moving forward, Start Up Waco will do the work of connecting these dots and facilitating collaboration.”
As Waco continues to build the entrepreneurial ecosystem, the importance of collaboration cannot be emphasized enough. Ms. Brown explained, “We can’t do everything ourselves, so we want to empower and support others with vision.”
For those interested in participating with Waco’s growing agricultural movement, you’re invited to join in the many events Bell, along with the African American Chamber of Commerce, will host throughout the month of March—National Nutrition Month.
Bell will have weekly healthy eating displays at the AACC, giving out free samples and information. She has also engaged J.H. Hines Elementary School and will host workshops at the Doris Miller YMCA to train children how to grow vegetables.
For more information on any of these programs, you can reach out to The African American Chamber of Commerce at (254) 235-3204.