What I Do: Gibron Jones of Hosco Shift
Urban farming is in Gibron Jones’ DNA. As a kid, he helped tend his family’s 17,000-square-foot garden in Walnut Park, where he learned the benefits of growing his own food. After a stint living on an Austrian pumpkin farm, Jones left a successful multimedia career in the music industry to return to his St. Louis roots. He launched Hosco Shift, a nonprofit with farms across St. Louis and a mission to teach others how to operate urban agriculture businesses. Here’s how this music industry pro became a food justice advocate.
“We produced easily 10,000 to 20,000 pounds of produce [a year] just from that little small area [in Walnut Park]. We were literally feeding the neighborhood just because we wanted to feed ourselves and cut our costs of living.”
“There were two peach trees, an apple tree, beans, squash, melons, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, corn, lettuce, kale, broccoli, cauliflower. We grew everything. … That was pretty much a family affair. We grew so much food that – if you grow 75 tomato plants, that’s way more tomatoes than you can use. We were literally giving them away, selling $5 bags of tomatoes. We’re talking grocery paper bags for $5. Nowadays, you get two or three for $5.”
“The music industry is kind of like a fraternity – you never really leave it. Even to this day, people still call me. And when I go to New York, I still have a lot of people who still work in the music industry. If I wanted to get back into it, I could, but I just have no interest in it except maybe doing a little bit of producing, which I kind of do on the side because I need an outlet from the farming.”
Listen // Hosco Foods' Gibron Jones and Missouri Coalition for the Environment's Melissa Vatterot joined Sauce editor Catherine Klene on St. Louis Public Radio to discuss food justice and urban farming in St. Louis.
“I wound up staying on a pumpkin farm in Lannach, Austria. This farm is interesting because the family was one of the biggest [producers] of kurbiskernol, which is pumpkin seed oil. I remember eating there one day and ordering a salad, and they came out with this black oil on the salad, and I was perplexed as to what the hell it was. … Once I tasted it, I was hooked. I had tons and tons of salad in Austria.”
“I’ve always been a person that’s the David against Goliath, and Goliath being the major corporation. … I don’t know exactly when that kicked off – I would like to say when I moved back here and when family members were dying because of cancer and all diet-related illnesses and diseases and things like that. That triggered something in me to start taking a stand for food justice.”
“If I spend $10, each individual seed might be .000001 cent. I now take that seed that’s less than a penny – maybe 10 thousandths of a penny – and now it’s a seedling. People buy seedlings for a dollar. That’s like the stock market almost – penny stocks. … I started looking at that as a way to challenge the system that we have and basically provide a way for people to not only feed themselves but change the conditions that they’re in by growing food.”
“My mom still grows vegetables in her backyard, and I cannot for the life of me grow like her. I’m trying, but she is amazing. Her stuff looks so good it almost looks like it’s plastic.”
“When I see children interested in growing food, that gives me hope. When I go to schools and see gardening programs, when I see other people wanting to start community gardens, when I see people who say, ‘I don't know anything about growing food, but I want to do it. … Can you teach me?’ That gives me hope.”
Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine.
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