Access to fresh, high-quality and culturally relevant food is essential for healthy thriving families and individuals. At Byrd Barr Place, we honor this central tenant through The Market, a free grocery-style food pantry where community members can access the goods they want in a welcoming and dignified atmosphere. We could not do this work alone, and are proud of our partnerships with local businesses and farmers who are equally dedicated to advancing food justice.

Fresh vegetables from Small Axe Farm.

Investing in a Black-led food system

One such exciting partnership is with the Black Farmers Collective, a local Black-led organization that works to strengthen food sovereignty in Black communities. The mission of Black Farmers Collective is to build a Black-led food system by developing a cooperative network of food system actors, acquiring and stewarding land, facilitating food system education and creating space for Black liberation and joy.

The partnership between Byrd Barr Place and Black Farmers Collective began in 2023, building from community conversations at Rainier Beach Action Coalition about the impact of food policy on the communities we serve. Currently, Byrd Barr Place sources produce from Small Axe Farms, one of the two farms operated by the Black Farmers Collective.

Black-owned farm land.

A natural alignment of missions

“Byrd Barr Place is dedicated to supporting the Black community, and Black farmers are often underrepresented and marginalized,” shares Byrd Barr Place Market Operations Coordinator Atiyeh Assaf, who often spends his Fridays at the farm volunteering. “There is a natural alignment in our missions and the visions we hold for creating an equitable future for all Washingtonians.” 

For farmers, many of their costs occur upfront, including labor to prepare the soil and the purchase of seeds, trays, compost, etc. Using a pay-forward model, Byrd Barr Place purchases from the Black Farmers Collective at the start of the growing season, allowing them to use funds for these types of operational costs. In return, Byrd Barr Place gets fresh produce throughout the season.

“This relationship goes beyond a simple monetary transaction, it is truly a labor of love for all involved,” says Assaf. “We try to support one another in a holistic way.”