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American Heart Association launching business program aimed at supporting farmers

American Heart Association launching business program aimed at supporting farmers

The American Heart Association, supported by CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (CareFirst), is launching a business accelerator focused on farmers for the first time.

It is called: EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator – Maryland Black Farmers.

It’s part of an effort to support the less than 2% of Black farmers in Maryland, but also create solutions to challenges such as food and nutrition insecurity.

“Farming is more than just food in the ground now,” said Rhonda Ford Chatmon, the Vice President of Health Strategies with the American Heart Association of Baltimore & Greater Maryland division.

It is also a matter of the heart.

The American Heart Association is launching EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator for Maryland Black Farmers to help push Black farmers and their communities forward.

“It just allows them to do more — that are more committed to and that they’re here to serve,” said Ford Chatmon.

Through the Accelerator, their goal is to help reduce the disparity of Black farmers’ representation and economic participation in Maryland’s agriculture sector, increase economic opportunity for Black farmers and improve access to healthy food.

“Part of the work we do as a Heart Association is teaching them what to do with that nutritious food but also help people build capacity to grow, to supply their own needs,” Ford Chatmon said.

Cynthia Wallace and Dr. Barbara Palmer both participated in previous EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerators, and participated in the EmPOWERED to Serve Faith-based Business Accelerator in 2021.

They say they’ve seen how the accelerator can help not only their business organizations, but also the communities they serve.

“It gave me the opportunity to rebrand – to refocus on how to serve our community whether it was social problems, economic problems, food insecurity. It helped me to impact those communities positively,” said Dr. Palmer, the President of Kingdom Kare in Odenton.

“I think nutrition is something that is really not only about eating the food to people but talking to them about why eating healthy is so good for you just holistically and really helps to address you know, some of the just health disparities that we see,” said Cynthia Wallace, Executive Director of The Oasis Project in Pittsburgh .

“No problem can be solved in the community by one organization, one agency, one entity, one church. The more we come together and collectively solve issues in the community the better off we will be,” said Ford Chatmon.

Maryland Black farmers, entrepreneurs, and start-ups can all apply through the EmPOWERED to Serve website.

Applications will be accepted through Oct. 2.



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