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Inspiring Conversations with Tyrean Lewis of Heru Urban Farming

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tyrean Lewis.

Hi Tyrean, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Our mission is to bring healthy, sustainable produce to those who most need it. Heru Urban Farming provides sustainable healthy local food options for food apartheid communities. In addition, to produce, we provide economic growth, hands-on training for growers, health education, herbal remedies, and the rebirth of togetherness within the community. I’m a 5th generational farmer, but I started farming in 2017. Before I was a farmer, I was a Physical Education teacher and also worked in management. When I first started, I began growing peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes in 5-gallon buckets in my backyard. I started growing my food due to the lack of healthy, sustainable produce in the community where I lived. We have a gas station, family dollar, and dollar general stores to purchase frozen and processed food. We might get lucky and find a banana or apple at the cash register. We are fortunate enough to have a grocery store in our neighborhoods, but it is subpar compared to our suburban counterparts. After a year of growing my food in my backyard, I got a garden lease from the city of St. Louis LRA program. There were three vacant lots across the street from my home, and I wanted to transform the eyesore into a self-sufficient food space. I lived in that neighborhood a few years prior, and no one knew my name, but once I began my project, everyone started speaking to me and asking me questions. Something clicked, and instantly I thought of supply and demand. I immediately started to manifest and visualize what I wanted to see in this space and on my future journey.

I received my first grant/accelerator program with the Balsa foundation in 2019 for first-time entrepreneurs. I learned how to make a pitch deck and build confidence in my brand. In 2020 I was accepted into the We power Elevate/Elevar accelerator, where I learned a lot about business structure and “behind the scene” business stuff that I never really thought about. In 2021 I was a part of the UMSL DEI Accelerator as well. Not only do I have a community garden in the city of St. Louis, but I also grow my produce at Confluence Farms in North County. I grow watermelons, cantaloupe, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, okra, carrots, beets, collards, mustards, blackberries, kale, bok choy, herbs, tatsoi, and broccoli. I’m also a member of the National Young Farmers Coalition’s Land Advocacy Fellowship, The National Farmers Union, and The FSA St. Louis Urban County Committee.

We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
I had a few struggles, but one of my first struggles was acquiring water access to my city garden. To have access to water in the city of St. Louis, you must have a fire hydrant key and get approval from your alderperson. My location is in the first ward, and my alderwoman didn’t want to approve me because of a power trip. She was upset because I reached out to the president. After all, she didn’t respond to my emails for three months, and time was precious, so I reached out to someone else. She instantly responded with an attitude once I did that. She then wanted me to get a petition from the community, which I did, and she still failed to respond nor acknowledge my request. Therefore I took it into my own hands, purchased two 100ft hoses, attached them to my backyard, and watered the garden that way.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
I’m known for my watermelons. My largest watermelon to this date is a 44-pound Jubilee. I have the sweetest watermelon in St. Louis; My favorite variety is Moon and Stars. I have over 10 varieties of red, yellow, orange, and white flesh. Heru Urban Farming, in collaboration with Growing Food, Growing People, will be having our first annual Urban Farmers Gala at Confluence Farm on September 10th, 5-11 pm. The Gala will highlight minority chefs, farmers, musicians, and DJs. All proceeds will help our young growers academy and outreach programs.

What do you like and dislike about the city?
I loved that we have a mix of down south and city life feel! I love the Redbirds and all of our free children-friendly things to do, and everyone from St. Louis is very proud of our city! The least likely thing about my city is the racism, segregation, and the lack of investment in the black communities.

Pricing:

  • $10 for watermelon
  • $750 for CSA’s (sold out until next year)

Contact Info:

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