I first met Sarah Buchanan at Table & Main's garden in Roswell in the fall of 2013.
A friend of mine put me in touch, as Buchanan founded a nonprofit organization in 2012 called “The Kula Project.”
Their goal is to eliminate poverty by giving one billion farmers the tools to make it happen, largely through donations and fundraisers, like their annual #forthefarmer campaign that takes place on Aug. 14.
Kula means “to eat” in Swahili and “community” in Sanskrit, and the Kula Project aims to help farmers in Africa support themselves, their families and their communities.
One of their earliest projects brought drip-tank technology to an orphanage in Kenya which enabled them to harvest every 21 days.
Before, the farmers were using seeds that were seven years old, but with their new methods, the orphanage was able to feed all of their children for the very first time — and even made $400 at a local market.
Their latest project will help genocide survivors in Rwanda grow coffee beans and bananas, which will double their income for the next thirty years.
Buchanan still worked at Table & Main when we first spoke, though she has since parted ways due to the success of her project. Her partnership with Table & Main, 1028 Canton Street in Roswell, however, is what directly funded the early stages of the Kula Project.
Without owner Ryan Pernice allowing Buchanan to take weeks off work, The Kula Project would have gone kaput.
Instead, the Kula Project recently celebrated their two-year anniversary at Monday Night Brewing Company in Midtown, a massive accomplishment considering 80 percent of small businesses fail within two years.
Hopefully, this means they’ll be around for the long haul.
This is important for both our community and Africa, because Buchanan’s project sets an example for all of us to follow.
The issue is that, as a whole, we aren’t doing that right now, and it’s the main reason Buchanan went to Africa to make a difference: People here didn’t seem to want it.
“We were building a lot of gardens around Roswell, and then we realized that no one was taking care of them after we left,” Buchanan said. “And when we first started Kula, we were trying to convince people to become farmers, and we realized that wasn't working either. That's when we started working with existing farmers.”
Part of the problem was Roswell’s city laws.
Though one of those gardens was behind Table & Main, Kula wasn’t legally allowed to sell the crops for a profit.
Instead, they had to donate the goods to the restaurant to sell.
Laws like these mean someone thousands of miles away can sell you food because it’s been approved by the federal government, but a neighbor, friend or community member cannot sell food from their garden down the street. Who do you trust more?
For the vast majority of human existence on earth, food was eaten from within walking distance of where it grew.
Today, you couldn’t find the farm your lettuce or bananas came from unless you worked for the NSA.
The number of people, miles and gallons of oil behind everything we eat is enormous, and it clogs up our system while hurting our health and the environment.
The fact that fresh food went ignored in the middle of a city shows the height of our ignorance. As we have forgotten our food, we have forgotten ourselves.
James Carr is working on a book about the local, sustainable movement called The Jig Is Up. For more information visit thejigisup89.com.