We are dedicated to creating an alternative food system that places the wellbeing of Black farmers and Black communities at its center
M. Jahi Chappell is an activist, researcher, organizer, son of social workers, and grandson of farmers. He has researched food sovereignty, agroecology, and farming and food security policy in the United States and Brazil, and has training in engineering, ecology, and political science. He has worked for over 18 years to build participatory, socially just, and ecologically sustainable agrifood systems that center the voices and needs of farmers and eaters rather than corporations and capital.
Jahi previously served as the Executive Director of the 45-year old think tank Food First, as Senior Scientist and Director of Agroecology and Agricultural Policy at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (where he met SAAFON’s co-founder, Ms. Cynthia Hayes), and as an Associate Professor of Agroecology at Coventry University in the United Kingdom. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering and a Ph.D. in Agroecology, both from the University of Michigan. Jahi has consulted for the Agroecology Fund, the international small farmers ‘ movement La Vía Campesina, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and the World Future Council. His award-winning book, Beginning to End Hunger: Food and the Environment in Belo Horizonte, Brazil and Beyond, was published January 2018 by the University of California Press. Beginning to End Hunger highlights breakthroughs in radically reducing hunger and supporting small-scale farmers in southeastern Brazil, and informs readers on how activists, farmers, researchers and eaters can learn from this example to change food systems everywhere.
Whitney Jaye is a farmer-organizer and mother whose love for the land and sea stem back deep into her life and lineage.
As a native of Wilmington, North Carolina, Whitney Jaye sees her work through the lens of Black Southern lifeways that (re)center agrarianism, and through the ancestral memories and practices of coastal Carolinian culture. She has done a variety of food systems work and organizing, from farming and youth agricultural education, to farmers market management, and cooperative development. In addition to her work with SAAFON, she is the co-steward of Semente Farm in Lithonia, Georgia, where she and her family grow vegetables, flowers, and herbs using ecologically sustainable growing practices. She also crafts experiences and spaces for Black folks to remember and practice their land-based legacies through her creative archival and educational project “The Hands Remember”.
Whitney Jaye studied at the University of Georgia and Middlebury Language School, and enjoys the constant education that mama Earth provides. When she is not in the field, you can find her dancing like her great grandmother, quilting and knitting, preserving the harvest, wild fermenting, medicine making, or digging through archives.
Alsie is an Atlanta – native, that advocates and activates the use of food as an organizing tool for healing and liberation. A child of the south, she is the granddaughter of educators and sharecroppers from Lincolnton, GA. She works as a network organizer in Mississippi for the southeastern African American Organic Farmers Network (SAAFON), loving on black farmers, sustaining family farms, black culture & black history and acts as the southern regional organizer for the National Black Food and Justice Alliance (NBFJA) approaching food sovereignty, land and self – determining food economies via the lens of healing, organizing and resistance against anti-blackness. she is also a grower, and dreams of and is building towards land – based black futures. She carries this work into her healing modality, “intimacy with food”, facilitating community dialogue and wellness education that incorporates mindfulness practices, radical resistance, and honoring cultural traditions. Sowing good seeds, she values storytelling and togetherness space to cultivate deep, intimate, and responsive relationships with and for the land and our people.
Jason is the first generation in his family born off the farm. He found a part of himself he didn’t know was missing through working the land. After graduating from college, Jason was on fire and driven to be an agent of change with a particular focus on youth development. He returned home to Pitt County with a vision of teaching in the public schools. For the next two years he taught Language Arts at his former middle school. When his first child was on the way, Jason reached back to his ancestral agrarian roots and started a garden and found that in harmony and communion with the natural elements hours passed unnoticed and uncounted. Connecting with the land birthed a vision to restore the connection of people and land. In 2013, Jason stepped out of the public school system to work on advancing his vision full-time. Jason began managing an existing community garden within a larger community garden network in Greenville, NC. Through the garden achievements and his community engagement Jason was quickly promoted to manager all eight community gardens in the network. He also registered the first urban farm in his town, selling organic vegetables to local CSA’ s, juicing companies, and a mobile food market. After years of cultivating community through the community garden network. Jason developed a youth agricultural training program – Cultivating Youth Entrepreneurs (CYE) and an urban farm school curriculum. CYE graduates have gone on to establish their own production farms and enroll in university seeking agriculture-related degrees. Jason continues to be an educator, taking the practical and theoretical knowledge he has gained through his journey to reclaiming his agrarian identity and serves as a consultant to local farms and organization on best practices, certification, and operation management. With a clear calling for this work, Jason continues farming and building farmer – to – farmer relationships as a means to establish self – sustainable food systems throughout our communities.
Tamara comes to us from the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service, where her duties included assisting local farmers to access all of the services and resources available through Agricultural Natural Resources (ANR), Family and Consumer Sciences(FACS) and 4-H programs. Born in Montgomery, Alabama, Tammy moved to Georgia as a preteen. She spent most of her teenage years traveling weekly between metro Atlanta and the rural Georgia family farm. In 1994, Tammy attended the University of West Georgia and later Georgia Perimeter College where she studied Business Management. Tammy has been a long-time advocate for environmental conservation, traditional homesteading practices, and cultural heritage projects. In 2001, Tammy left an accounting career to travel across North America visiting various North American sub – cultures including the Amish, Gullah – Geechee, and Native Americans. She developed friendships with many of the residents in these communities and eventually opened a retail store that highlighted many of their arts and crafts contributions. In 2004, she published the first of three books celebrating the local history and contributions of small towns in America. In 2015, she co – founded a nonprofit historical cultural heritage museum called This Old Farmhouse, GA located in Heard County. The museum also serves as an agritourism attraction exploring the daily lives of small – scale West GA farming families during the early – mid 20th century.
Noah McDonald is a land steward, researcher, and culture keeper coming from seven generations of rural folk from the upper reaches of the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. Noah’s upbringing in rural central Ohio fostered an abiding love of rural people, culture, and landscapes.
Noah holds a B.S. in Biology and Religious Studies from Guilford College in Greensboro, NC. From 2018 to 2019, Noah served as the Cynthia Hayes – Fannie Lou Hamer Fellow at SAAFON, identifying a collective landholding model for the prevention of land loss within SAAFON’s farmer network. In 2019, Noah worked a season as a farm apprentice at Soul Fire Farm in Petersburgh, NY. In 2020, Noah returned to SAAFON to continue articulating and redefining its land work.
Noah is passionate about learning and exploring Black agrarian legacies through raising animals and heritage grain, legume, and vegetable varieties and doing deep dives into archival materials. For Noah, intimate and loving relationship with the land, air, and water is the foundation for a good, healthy life. Noah currently lives and farms in Wampanoag and Nipmuc territories, supporting the food sovereignty work of Eastern Woodlands Rematriation Collective.
Maya Jordan is a community organizer, activist, volunteer and a creative. Her family hails from rural Mississippi (where her Mother and several generations before her were born) and rural Canada (where she first learned about our deep connection to our land and food) and she spent many summers visiting the family farms. Maya is active in her community, supporting urban farming, school farms, food justice, and green space movements in urban communities. She is also an avid volunteer doing reading programs and facilitating music performances for the elderly and disabled in nursing homes and rehab centers.
Maya’s career and work experience are at the intersection of the non-profit sector, the creative arts, and the healing arts. Maya has well over a decade of experience in non-profit and grassroot organization consulting, program management and operations administration for organizations across the country from small independent non-profits to large high-profile organizations. Maya is also a lifecycle Doula, non-denominational minister, herbalist, and shaman and has been practicing and administering support and care in these arenas both professionally and personally as part of her calling for 8 years. Maya is also a filmmaker, composer, artistic director, and a classically trained singer & actor and has worked and performed professionally in all those capacities for 15 years for creative arts organizations, film & theater companies and co-runs her film production company Library Card Productions with her husband. Maya uses her skills and vast experience from the three branches of her career to inform each other: Her knowledge in the spiritual and healing arts allow her to create work environments that are supportive and nurturing. Her training and background in the creative arts allow her to approach all of her work with a unique and fun perspective. Her expertise in consulting and operational management allows her to assist everyone she works with in applying practical strategy and organizational structure to their goals, be they professional or personal. Maya has manifested a career that is rooted in her core values and methodology of Creating Safe Space for Others, Creating Efficient Processes, and Creativity in all its forms and she combines her wealth of experience, training, and knowledge to support others in their endeavors. Maya is a University of Michigan graduate and comes to SAAFON bringing her dedication, friendly professionalism and an unparalleled organizational skillset honed, as previously mentioned, for over 10 years helping organizations achieve goals with streamlined workflow processes. She applies her detail-oriented approach to consulting, organization, operational, and creative project management to her work and is honored and grateful to do so with SAAFON. Maya is also a geeky sci-fi/fantasy nerd who loves Shakespeare, hiking, books, and hosting gatherings with friends, family, and her husband.