The Brooklyn, N.Y.-based multiroaster wants to source their own produce to promote food transparency within their business.
BY KATRINA YENTCH
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos courtesy of Bushwick Grind
The past year-plus of current events within the coffee industry has continued to pressure coffee shops and businesses to demonstrate transparency in their buying and sourcing practices—but the food industry as a whole has fallen slightly behind on this trend.
With a desire to promote food-sourcing transparency, New York-based Bushwick Grind has come out of COVID hibernation with the goal of moving to a new space that will allow them to start an urban farm to grow their own produce, and provide urban farming education for the greater Brooklyn borough.
While volunteering with their son Carter at several urban farms and gardens in Brooklyn, Bushwick Grind owners Kymme Williams-Davis (she/her) and Raymond Davis were surprised to learn that there are over 600 urban farms throughout the five boroughs of New York City. However, they are mostly owned by the City of New York, so many have been threatened with closure because of land developers purchasing the lots. This was troubling news for Kymme, who works exclusively with upstate farms and local distributors to source the food for their café’s menu, which consists of extensive lunch, brunch, and dinner options plus catering events.
And so, after experiencing a couple of disheartening situations with widespread distributors, it became more clear to Kymme and Raymond that simply sourcing their own produce would encourage self-reliance, and provide an educational opportunity for their community. “One lesson learned very early on, there was a recall on romaine,” explains Kymme. “The news was talking about how many people were dying from it. … We went to our distributor and they could not tell us where the romaine came from … that was kind of an eye opener. Doing our small part is what we’re trying to do, to get access to more visibility on where the food comes from.”
Kymme’s gardening experience stems from much deeper roots than that which she experienced while volunteering at urban farms. As a child, she spent summer afternoons with her grandmother in South Carolina in between school breaks in Brooklyn, farming everything from collard greens to peanuts and watermelons. Kymme also completed an urban agriculture course from Louisiana State University during COVID shutdowns to hone her experience for commercial practice, and plans to hire other professionals to help during the build-out of the garden.
“By doing our introduction to urban farms here in Brooklyn, we discovered how bountiful the soil and grounds are,” confirms Kymme. “There’s actually nine crops we would be interested in that we could actually grow nine months out of the year!” This includes items like red and green peppers, kale, spinach, and herbs year-round.
In light of the coffee industry’s focus on transparency, Kymme wants to bring that same ethos to the food she and Raymond provide to their customers. “I’d love to have that same synergy we have with coffee that we have with food. We have the same type of visibility and approachability with food.”
Bushwick Grind currently has a crowd-funding account to finance the move of locations from the current space, a converted one-bedroom apartment, to a new one that can accommodate both a café and the outdoor gardening space. Hoping to raise $50,000 USD, the money will go toward staffing and training on both coffee and urban farming techniques, along with complete ownership of the space. Bushwick Grind will also continue to host the same community events and activities that promote entrepreneurship of other small businesses and individuals.
“We want to use the urban farm to produce food but also as a learning tool, so we can get our community and children to come in and use it as a farmers market. We have kids who don’t know the difference between zucchini or cucumber. It’s a lot of benefits to the community we plan to exercise, to be in the space of food rescue and being food producers and educators and nutritionists.”
To support Bushwick Grind’s mission to build a community space for food education, you can donate to the account here!