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Detroit Entrepreneur and Urban Farmer Aims to Help Neighbors Live Better

“When you eat better, you feel better mentally, physically and emotionally, you make better decisions, you put yourself in alignment with the blessings that the universe has for you and you can work toward all those things,” said Candius Elliott, founder of Workin’ Roots, an urban farm in Detroit.

The entrepreneur has had a lifelong dream of growing her own food, but it wasn’t until she moved to Detroit four years ago when she discovered how much land was available and recognized a need in the community for people to have access to healthy food.

The mom of two, who studies herbs and makes her own teas and herbal remedies, began conducting research and networking with area urban farmers. She connected with organizations such as Liberated Farms and Keep Growing Detroit and learned about the Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund.

“I kept my ear to the ground with different community-based organizations that promote food sovereignty and wellness and health,” Elliot said. “I also began to realize that people in the community didn’t have access to fresh produce. Everything came into alignment. I’m a big proponent of people living better – we all deserve it and I want to do my part to help people do so.”

Elliot turned her vision into a nonprofit organization that gives back to her neighbors. Her brainchild was recently named among the second cohort of Detroit Residents First Fund (DRFF) grant recipients. The historic Fund – the first of its kind in Detroit – prioritizes support for Detroit-based grassroots nonprofit organizations whose leaders are Black, indigenous or other persons of color working to transform Detroit’s neighborhoods with the least access to power and social capital.

Workin’ Roots aims to bring healthy, sustainable food options to residents in Detroit’s Nolan neighborhood who are lacking grocery store access. The organization also works to revitalize and reengage the community by reconnecting to the Earth through land stewardship, food sovereignty, sustainability and herbalism.

Elliot purchased two lots side by side in Detroit’s Nolan neighborhood and began to bring her vision to life.

“Our mission is to revitalize the community and help community members get in touch with the Earth and ground themselves mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally by connecting with the earth and growing your own food and using plant medicines and getting back to the ways our ancestors lived,” Elliot said.

Elliot plans to use the DRFF grant dollars to hire up to 10 youth farm apprentices to help out at the farm.

“We’ll teach them how to grow food, how they can sustain themselves from food and also how to make money from growing food, medicinal herbs and flowers,” Elliot said, adding that she also has dreams to purchase additional properties to expand the farm and also to enhance the aesthetics and safety features by adding fencing. She’s also eyeing an abandoned house across the street as a potential future community space for events and educational offerings during inclement weather when they can’t be outdoors.

“I think we’ve done a really good job so far with the limited resources we’ve had,” she said, adding that the DRFF grant dollars will help move her vision forward.

The DRFF’s second cohort will receive a total of $1,110,000 in funding distributed among the seven organizations over three years, as well as access to a wealth of other resources.Officially launched in 2021, the Fund is supported by Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency, theFord Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Community Development Advocates of Detroit, Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, McGregor Fund, and Skillman Foundation.

The DRFF is one of few partnerships to exist in the state of Michigan using an innovative framework of participatory grantmaking, where foundations, nonprofits and community leaders have created a formal structure and process for sharing decision-making power.

Visit DRFFund.org for more information.

To contact Workin’ Roots, email workinrootsfarm@gmail.com.