On Benevolence Farm, a NC nonprofit that is using entrepreneurship and farming to reap change in the rural criminal legal system.
On Zoom: May 27, 7:oo pm - 8:30 pm EDT
In Alamance County, NC, Benevolence Farm is a fully-functioning farm and residential program that seeks to cultivate leadership, promote sustainable livelihoods, and reap structural change with individuals impacted by the criminal legal system in North Carolina. They do this through three primary means:
Benevolence Farm provides its residents with safe, stable housing and pays them a living wage through employment at their farm, which grows and sells its organic produce and seedlings locally, and has a line of soaps and candles that can be purchased in their online store.
Benevolence Farm welcomed its first resident in 2016 and has since had 28 participants in their programs. 84% of their alumni continue to live freely in the community (a recidivism rate of only 16%), in contrast to the state’s recidivism rate of 40%.
Part of their success can be attributed to their focus on mental health. Kristen Powers, the Executive Director, says, “We approach things from a harm reduction practice, from a trauma informed care practice, and we really try to make sure that we’re not repeating or replicating the punitive or harmful systems from where a lot of the people we serve have come.” According to Kristen, the hands-on permaculture work and connection with nature is a big part of their healing.
The vision of Benevolence Farm is to create a more equitable, just, and nurturing world for women and the communities they transform.
Our other panelists, Dreama Caldwell with Down Home NC, and Jasmine Heiss from the Vera Institute of Justice, will also be joining us to talk about what the challenges and opportunities are in rural communities as it relates to the criminal legal system.
Join us in this Radically Rural Roundtable to discuss the realities of people caught in this system and how other rural communities can support reentry programs like this one. 50% of ticket sales will go straight to Benevolence Farm to support the good work they are doing!
How can you help in the meantime? Kristen says, “Our goal…is to become more self-sustaining so that we can focus on this unique model that we have of supporting people with housing and employment wraparound services.” In 2021, they want to make enough revenue in body care products to fully sustain the living wage employment component of their mission. They aim to sell $100,000 worth of products. Shop products on their website, https://benevolence-farm-body-care.myshopify.com/ and while you’re at it, consider purchasing a bar of soap on behalf of an incarcerated person (an option in their online store).
Kristen Powers (she/ella) is the Executive Director of Benevolence Farm, a non-profit social enterprise supporting formerly incarcerated women. Prior to working at Benevolence Farm, Kristen worked at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice for three years as their Advocacy Coordinator. She lives in Saxapahaw, a rural community in North Carolina, with her Therapy Corgi, Colbert. She advocates for a world where prisons are no longer needed.
Dreama Caldwell is the Executive Co-Director for Down Home NC, which works to unite and build the power and raise the voices of working people in small-town and rural North Carolina in order to take action on the issues that matter. Down Home says, “By weaving together our different experiences, we can shape a democracy that serves working people, where our labor is valued, and our food, water, and land are healthy.”
Jasmine Heiss is project director of In Our Backyards, an initiative exploring the shifting geography of mass incarceration, and elevating the surprising truth that America’s highest rates of incarceration in are not in the biggest cities, but in the nation’s hundreds of smaller cities, towns and rural areas. Her work is meant to inform the public dialogue, engage new allies, and advance change in order to end mass incarceration where it begins—in all of our backyards. Jasmine previously served as the deputy director of The Coalition for Public Safety, where she helped lead the nation's largest bipartisan effort to reform the U.S. criminal justice system, and as Amnesty International USA’s senior campaigner, where she led work on groundbreaking victories, including the passage of the country’s first reparations package for police torture survivors and the release of two of the longest held-prisoners in solitary confinement. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from the University of Chicago and a proud alumna of Rockwood Leadership Institute.