163: Tyrean Lewis (Heru Urban Farming)

Tyrean Lewis on Innovation City

“I know all across the country and neighborhoods, communities, they’re suffering through food apartheid. And my goal is so that we don’t have to talk about that word anymore.” – Tyrean Lewis

Welcome to Season 3 of Innovation City, a podcast featuring innovators, creators, and disruptors to discover how business is changing in the modern world.

Created and produced by SLAM! Agency in cooperation with Venture Cafe St. Louis and Venture Cafe Miami, Innovation City gives you an inside look at how rapidly business and culture are changing thanks to increasing diversity and inclusion, heightened creativity, and a stronger and better-connected business community. Venture Cafe is the largest combined gathering of entrepreneurs and innovators anywhere in the world. Events are held every Thursday in St. Louis, Miami, and other leading innovation cities around the globe.

Today’s guest is Tyrean Lewis, Founder & CEO of Heru Urban Farming, which aims to provide underserved communities with fresh, local produce, and put an end to food apartheid in St. Louis’ underserved communities. Tyrean is a fourth-generation farmer who began a community garden that became a successful business. In this episode, Tyrean sits down with the team to discuss his family tradition of farming, ending food apartheid in St. Louis and beyond, what’s next for Heru Urban Farming, and much more!

They discuss:

  • Spiritual name Heru, means “king liberator,” received at a ceremony in 2018
    • The name empowered him and gave him confidence
  • Why farming?
    • A family tradition
    • His great uncle formed the first Black farming co-op, with over 20 farmers
    • Inspired by a craving for fresh produce in 2018, when he realized he had to get further and further away from his own neighborhood in order to find quality, fresh produce
    • He recognized that not many people have that same ability to drive further out of their neighborhoods to get fresh produce
    • Over 700,000 people in St. Louis do not have access to food within a half mile of home
  • Food apartheid
    • Food desert is done naturally
    • Food apartheid is deliberately done
    • Lack of access to good foods
  • Saw a plot of land across from his home
    • Had the vision to develop Heru Urban Farming in 2017
    • Began with two raised beds
    • Started out as a community garden in the first year
    • Second year as demand increased, Heru realized he could turn this into a business
    • Began taking classes, networking, applying for grants
  • In 2019 Heru officially became a for-profit business
  • WEPOWER accelerator
    • Heru is in the first cohort
    • Gave him the tools and confidence he needed
  • Advice to those considering entering the urban farming space
    • Just do it!
    • Everybody has somebody that grows or used to grow something
    • Reach out to me – I’ll help you
  • What’s next for Heru
    • Set goals
    • Wants to purchase cattle, chickens
    • Build a homestead
    • Continue expanding
  • Learn more about Tyrean and Heru Urban Farming at heruurbanfarming.com, or @heruurbanfarming on social media

Lightning Round:

  1. Who are your heroes?
    • My parents. Michael Jordan.
  2. What do you spend too much time doing?
    • Thinking about food, growing food.
  3. What are you working towards that you could use some help with?
    • Asking for help, accepting help.
  4. What was your childhood dream?
    • First Black president
  5. If money was not an issue, how would you spend your time?
    • I’d have a massive farm with 100 acres, running smoothly. Or kick back on an island with my family.
  6. What do you dream of achieving someday?
    • Success. I want to feel like it’s not a struggle anymore.
  7. If you could put three items in a time capsule and bury it in the ground for 100 years, what would you put inside?
    • A honeybun, my favorite snack; a picture of my family; and a cell phone