The American Heart Association is launching a business accelerator called “EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator – Maryland Black Farmers” in collaboration with CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, with the aim of supporting Black farmers in Maryland. This initiative recognizes the challenges faced by Black farmers, who make up less than 2% of Maryland’s agricultural sector. The goal is to provide solutions to issues such as food and nutrition insecurity. Rhonda Ford Chatmon, Vice President of Health Strategy for the American Heart Association’s Baltimore-Greater Maryland Division, emphasized that agriculture now goes beyond simply growing food; it is also a matter of the heart. By launching the EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator, the American Heart Association aims to empower and support Black farmers and their communities.
The accelerator’s objective is to reduce disparities in representation and economic participation of Black farmers in Maryland’s agricultural sector, increase economic opportunities for Black farmers, and improve access to healthy food. Ford-Chatmon explained that the accelerator not only teaches people how to use nutritious foods, but also helps them develop skills to meet their own needs. Cynthia Wallace and Dr. Barbara Palmer, who participated in previous EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerators, highlighted that these initiatives not only benefit businesses, but also the communities they serve. Dr. Palmer, chairman of Kingdom Carre in Odenton, stated that the accelerator allowed her to make a positive impact on communities by addressing social issues, economic issues, and food insecurity. Wallace, executive director of the Oasis Project in Pittsburgh, emphasized the importance of collaboration and working together to solve community problems.
Ford-Chatmon stressed that no single organization, institution, group, or church can solve all community problems alone. Collaboration and collective efforts are necessary to create positive change. The EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator is open to all Maryland Black farmers, entrepreneurs, and startups. Applications can be submitted through the EmPOWERED to Serve website until October 2nd.