Bobby and Derravia Rich cannot wait for spring.
That’s when Black Seeds Urban Farms
, their idyllic swath of farmland in Uptown's Greenlaw community, comes back to life, bursting with produce like tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, squashes, pears, herbs, and flowers.
The growth brings the birds back to the neighborhood, as well as the neighbors, who use this space for everything from listening parties to meditations.
But this spring, the farm itself is growing. And it’s going to look better than ever before.
“This year will be a new look for us,” says Derravia, seated next to her husband Bobby in the inherited home where she grew up as a child.
The Rich family of Black Seeds Urban Farms. (Photo courtesy of Bobby and Derravia Rich)
That home is where her grandfather grew a garden, and where Derravia learned the joys of agriculture at a tender age. She and Bobby revived her grandfather’s garden and made it their own sanctuary, but soon their friends began gathering there too, and it became a crowded social spot.
As Bobby says, “We love our friends, but we only got so much space!”
Like any growing thing, the Riches’ garden needed more room to spread out.
The duo found their space in a vacant spot near Greenlaw Park, launching Black Seeds Urban Farms in 2021. It has grown into a successful business, providing fresh fruits and vegetables from the earth in a location that was recently a food desert.
But they didn’t stop there. The Riches started hosting events at Black Seeds farm, and it became “bigger than just food,” as Bobby says. A “communal space,” agrees Derravia.
A thriving event space
Once the Riches began renting their gardens out for special events, they found a profitable and meaningful new use for their land.
They began booking events such as birthday parties, yoga sessions, painting groups, album releases, and anything else that suited the beautiful outdoor setting.
Derravia particularly enjoyed a watercolor painting class with local artist Kris Keys, and savored the serenity her visit brought to the guests.
“I just really liked that event. It was unique.”
Bobby recounts a wedding he hosted in the garden for a close friend and his spouse. The couple had a spiritual bonding ceremony there in front of friends and family, amid a potpourri of magnolias, sunflowers, lemongrass, and zinnias.
They’ve also used their space at Black Seeds Urban Farms to honor the memories of those who have passed on. In a partnership with Halls of Ivy Academy, they hosted discussions on turning grief into gratitude.
Planning for the future
Their dream of bringing fresh food and a genuine appreciation for the gifts of nature to the inner city is coming true before their eyes.
“We really are feeding those people,” Bobby says.
They are currently working with the city to buy an adjacent lot so they can expand, and the couple is hopeful that the deal will work out.
The Riches also want to scale up and create gardening spaces in other underserved areas around the Memphis metro area so that the success of their farm can spread its branches even further. They have their eyes on a plot of soil with potential nearby in Uptown.
Uptown has a “really mixed group of Memphians, from doctors to nurses to heirloom residences, new families, and young families," says Derravia. "And all those people have to go across the bridge to Arkansas to go to Wal-Mart.”
Not only that, but the Riches also have plans to open storefronts in the community to make this food more accessible to neighbors walking by on the way home from work, church, or school.
Engaging the community
When asked how the community could help Black Seeds Urban Farm achieve their goals, Derravia says, “We are looking for supporters, volunteers, and investors who can help us.”
“The soil is our only point of agency,” adds Bobby.
The family has had generous supporters who have helped them get this far, but they seek a wider engagement from all over the community.
In the meantime, they are breaking down garden beds, digging rows, and getting ready to greet the spring. And they are welcome to volunteers who want to help.
“I know a lot of people want to get their fingernails dirty," says Bobby.
Black Seeds Urban Farms is located at 580 N. 4th St. in Memphis. Contact them at (901) 289-5016, or email them at [email protected].