Community Spotlight: Erin Byrd & the Fertile Ground Food Cooperative

By Cindy Sink, Food Shuttle Director of Community Impact and Advocacy

At the Food Shuttle, we believe that beating hunger can only happen through collaboration, with different organizations working together on all aspects of the food system. That's why in our newest Community Spotlight series, we'll be focusing on organizations doing good work in our community to fight hunger at all levels. 

Erin Byrd is a community activist, non-profit executive director, and Southeast Raleigh resident on a mission to build community power through Fertile Ground Food Cooperative, a member-owned cooperative grocery store.

Erin Byrd doesn’t like that her Southeast Raleigh community is often referred to as a “food desert”—the USDA term coined to describe low-income communities where there is little access to healthy food.  

Erin Byrd, left, at the Fertile Ground Food Cooperative Farmers Market

“That term centers on lack, and doesn’t necessarily help you understand the challenges, why that lack exists in the first place,” says Byrd.

Instead, Byrd focusses on the assets in Southeast Raleigh, such as the rich academic history of Shaw University and St. Augustine’s, and the wisdom and courage of black business leaders and community organizers who came before her.

“We are families and small businesses just like anywhere else, with a lot of people who care about our kids,” says Byrd.    

Built on the cooperative principles of employee ownership, education, and concern for the community, Fertile Ground aims to increase access to healthy and affordable food,  and serve as a community and cultural center in Southeast Raleigh.  Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members—those who buy the goods or use the services of the cooperative—who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.

“Fertile Ground will be a grocery store, but also a place where people can gather, and can have classes, and where we can build a community.  It’s helping people by creating jobs, and when they go there to work, they OWN it,” says Byrd.

The co-op is also an innovative approach to battling hunger.  

Byrd: “First and foremost, It’s about accessibility to food. Second is our desire to do cooking classes—to teach people you can prepare nutritious, good-tasting food with fresh vegetables. Third, we’re building relationships with local farmers, to help them bring their food to market so they can increase their profit and ability to bring healthy food to the whole system. And last, workers in the store have a wage that has dignity.”


Byrd’s philosophy is that by building models of cooperative spirit in the community, together we can fix what is broken.

“We have a lot of individualism in this country—a lot of  ‘I..I…I.’  Fertile Ground is a way of working cooperatively, embodying those values, and practicing a different way of being together than materialism and individualism.”

What you can do:

Learn more about and contribute to Fertile Ground Co-op at :
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