I'm so excited to be among the graduates of the 3rd BeBhm BECOME J.O. Diffay Cohort. BECOME is a 5 month business accelerator program (powered by StartSpark + CO.STARTERS) and and hosted by Birmingham's own Urban Impact that covers key areas of business operations and management. In addition to the amazing program facilitators like Joseph Dees and Jessica Bynum, all of us had direct access to experts in a variety of areas like financial management and marketing.
The program consisted of a 12-week (10 sessions) facilitated core curriculum and will be followed by an intensive and individualized 30-60-90 technical assistance period.
Why are we doing this? Why is a community-centered farm like ours so interested in "business", you ask? For us it's another way to view our work through multiple lenses of sustainability. We promote the work of urban farming and land justice to our neighbors and Urban Farmers in Training (UFIT) and we want to be able to sustain this work for generations to come, operating in the modalities of our current economic systems while working to create new inclusive and just models.
Our cohort was named in honor of JO Diffay, a Black entrepreneur in Birmingham with roots in farming. His genius later led him to produce sales, opening a tonsorial parlor, and later becoming one of the most successful Black real estate agents in Birmingham. He later went on to help organize the Alabama Penny Savings Bank, one of the first Black banks in Birmingham, AL.
I think it's incredibly fitting to come together as a cohort of powerful, entrepreneurial Black women in Birmingham under the name of JO Diffay. His life speaks to the strength of Black entrepreneurial spirit, the challenges we experience, and what we can accomplish with access to land, financial resources, and community.
In Solidarity and With Gratitude,
M. Dominique Villanueva is the co-Founder of Fountain Heights Farms and creator of the Urban Farmers in Training (UFIT) program, the first of its kind training program for BIPOC urban farmers. She is also the recipient of the inaugural Braiding Seeds Fellowship and the co-founder of the #WeAllEat Food Cooperative that served 467 families fresh produce regardless of ability to pay throughout the pandemic.