The first time we spoke with Beatrice Kamau, a native of Kenya who has now lived in Chicago for over 20 years, we felt there was something unstoppable in this soft spoken yet confident woman.
A nurse and single parent to her 17-year old daughter, Beatrice has been urban farming for years, beekeeping, and just recently was hired by Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service as a community organic specialist to advise farmers in the region.
The daughter of tea famers who also grew other cash crops in Kenya, she has an uncommon understanding of the natural world and how to grow, harvest, and preserve most any food, from herbs to livestock.
Her farm, Multiple Harvest LLC, sprang out of these roots in 2017 within the Urban Growers Collective incubator program in south Chicago. She’s focused her farming on growing niche varieties of vegetables and herbs popular among African immigrant communities. These foods include pigweed, nightshade, cowpea, African cabbage, three varieties of garden egg, clove basil, and bird eye pepper.
Multiple Harvest LLC currently sells direct to African immigrant pockets in Chicago and the northwest suburbs, but Beatrice sees a need and market for these products well surpassing what her current urban plot can handle. “Our dream,” she says, “is to increase production of some of these vegetables for distribution in the Midwest and beyond.”
While incubator programs are great for giving beginning farmers like Beatrice affordable farmland leases and access to other resources, farmers are typically only allowed to participate for a limited number of years. Having completed four growing seasons at the Urban Growers Collective and with an apartment lease ending in April, Beatrice is eager to find an ideal long-term land solution for her farming.
Beatrice is seeking to buy a farm with one to to five acres (or more) with a home for her and her daughter to live, homestead, and farm. Since she envisions hoop houses and raising chickens, it is important the land be zoned for agricultural use. She dreams, too, of implementing a long-term organic approach to soil health and establishing many perennial plants on the property, including fruit trees and herbs. Land with these specifications must fall within her sub-$280,000 price range. She is also open to a lease-to-own situation or other creative arrangements that would support her long-term goals and enterprises.
Finding a suitable option within these parameters within easy driving distance of Chicago will be a challenge for Beatrice. Right now, she is most focused on Kane, McHenry, and Lake Counties. You can find her profile on our Illinois FarmLink website at https://illinoisfarmlink.org/find-a-farmer/multiple-harvest-llc.
We believe that helping Beatrice will benefit many others as well. She is a self-described introvert, and yet, because of her big heart, she frequently finds herself in situations where she feels compelled to share things she knows that would help others around her.
“When I see a need, I can’t help but step in.” says Beatrice.
This commitment to helping led her to launch a mutual support group called African Women in Beekeeping that began with seven African female beekeepers in 2019 and now has over 130 members.
We have started the process of connecting Beatrice with realtors and key people in her search area. If you have any opportunities, connections, or advice to share with Beatrice, please do so! You can reach out to Beatrice by email at email@example.com.