Abiodun Henderson of Atlanta is running a program called Gangstas to Growers that trains previously incarcerated youth how to harvest crops, at $15 an hour. Henderson believes Gangstas to Growers has the power to reverse some powerful and negative trends, Politico reports. Nationwide, black people are five times more likely than white people to be incarcerated before their 21st birthday. The unemployment rate of Atlanta blacks in some areas is dramatically higher than the citywide average of nearly 4 percent. communities. Henderson believed there wasn’t enough being done to help young Atlantans who had spent time in jail or experienced homelessness learn skills that could feed their families and free them from generational poverty.
Henderson, a 36-year-old mother of one and a veteran restaurant employee, had grown interested in urban farming’s potential to help heal communities. “I knew farmers who needed labor. I knew folks in the community who needed money. I couldn’t preach to folks without providing opportunities.” Gangstas to Growers teaches young people the importance of building wealth in historically disinvested communities in Atlanta. Henderson wants to train at least 500 formerly incarcerated young Atlantans by 2025. Eventually, Henderson foresees her program expanding to other major U.S. cities that struggle with gang violence, introducing young black people nationwide to the many possibilities offered by food and farming.