Nyema Clark (she/her) is a 33-year-old urban farmer and founder of Nurturing Roots, a nonprofit building community through farming in Seattle’s Beacon Hill.
“I started Nurturing Roots because I wanted to provide healthier food to our community. For the Black community specifically, I wanted to honor a lot of our ancestral practices in agriculture.”
Nyema says that a lot of people in her generation see slavery as the only way that Black folks have been connected to farming or the food system.
“They don’t necessarily see food as healing and self-sustaining,” she says. “It’s important to have ancestral ties in order to go back to the healthy solutions that now we just expect the system to provide.”
Her personal ties are with her grandmother. She has fond memories of cooking chow chow, a fermented dish made with cabbage, cucumber, and other veggies, together with the rest of her family.
“I think folks in the South have always been making it. My grandmother would say, ‘Yeah, my mom gave me that when we didn’t feel good or when we had a stomach ache.’ Now I get the science behind it. It’s an amazing probiotic and we need that, that’s great for gut health. Food has been a way I always felt I could heal myself, especially when I could eat with family.”
Nyema grew up with a passion for food. As a child, she would check out cookbooks from the library and was always eager to test things out in the kitchen with her mom. She says she felt empowered and loved being able to provide a meal that her family liked.
With Nurturing Roots, Nyema wants to encourage people to design a lifestyle around food and find more ways to be self-sufficient in their health.
“I’ve been let down by a lot of western medicine. Food has been my entryway into liberating myself. BIPOC communities have healed ourselves for generations.”
Beyond being the founder of Nurturing Roots, Nyema has been an active community organizer. As a high school student, she organized with Seattle Young People’s Project for a new, more inclusive history curriculum in Seattle Public Schools. She has also organized with No New Youth Jail and Black Prisoners’ Caucus.
“I think about the intersectionality of so much oppression with the criminal legal system, healthcare, and education system. Food is right there too and it deserves as much fight as so many other disparities.”
Photo: Nyema Clark at Nurturing Roots