When the proprietor of Heru Urban Farming tells his story, the listener can’t help but lean in and listen more closely. There is an important tale being imparted, as evidenced by the urgency of the message and the earnestness of the information.
After only a few minutes of speaking over the phone, one starts to understand that the message is truly an integral part of the messenger.
“Yeah! So, my name is Tyrean ‘Heru’ Lewis. ‘Heru’ comes from a spiritual African name. My spiritual name is Heru Adeleke, that means the “crown, strength of a king,” Tyrean “Heru” Lewis told Garden & Health. “So, Heru by itself means ‘king liberator,’ so I’m just trying to liberate the people with food!” he says, laughing before continuing, “That’s I came up with the name.”
Photo Courtesy Tyrean “Heru” Lewis
Technically, a fifth-generation farmer whose family hails from Lamar County, TX, Lewis himself grew up in St. Louis. At first, he didn’t see himself as someone with a future in food production but instead started as an educator before delving into other business opportunities.
“Yeah, so I started off as a Physical Education teacher, actually. When I graduated college, I was a teacher,” Lewis said. “I’ve taught PE for about 10 to 12 years. So I did that.”
“And then I went to get my master’s in management. And I was assistant GM at Five Guys Burgers and a local car wash chain here in St. Louis called The Blue Iguana,” he continued, again chuckling before getting suddenly serious as he starts to unspool the reality of the healthy food situation in his hometown.
“So, this gives you a background on St. Louis: Over 800,000 People in St. Louis metro areas don’t have sustainable healthy produce within a half a mile community, which is walking distance,” Lewis said.
“Less than 1% of the food grown in Missouri is actually for human consumption. So most of my produce comes from 1,200 miles away … I’m talking about Mexico, California, things of that nature.”
Photo Courtesy Tyrean “Heru” Lewis
After describing a personal pilgrimage in and around his neighborhood, then to a more affluent “college vibes” area of town, seeking fresh, quality produce, Lewis began to draw conclusions based upon where he was when he finally tracked down said produce.
“So, I went off to Clayton. Alright, so Clayton, MO … I just recently read somebody that the wealthiest, small town to live in the Midwest is Clayton, MO. So I went there,” he said. “I went down there, and wow, they had everything you needed, I mean fresh produce everywhere. I could have gone there with a blindfold and picked up some stuff!”
Tyrean Lewis is nothing if not a problem solver, so after completing this little bit of field journalism, he got right down to work.
Photo Courtesy Heru Urban Farming
“Okay, I don’t know why it’s different where you go, but let me do something about it. So I just started growing food in my backyard,” Lewis said. “I started with peppers and tomatoes and cucumbers.”
“So I started a manifestation, to visualize what I want to see,” he continued. “So I saw that there was a vacant lot … typical, urban, vacant lot, you know, trash and couches, whatever. So I thought, man, I wonder how it would be if I grew food over there.”
Just like that, Heru Urban Farming was born in 2017. Today, the business and Lewis himself are thriving, serving the greater St. Louis area and providing organic and non-GMO products to food desert areas in Missouri and elsewhere.
Aside from the simple goal of helping people eat healthier, Lewis makes sure to impart the philosophy that carries him through every day of his business and, more importantly, his day-to-day life: understanding his fellow man.
“I love studying people,” Lewis said. “You know, sometimes you got prejudice and self-prejudice that is naturally inviting you, just because you’re surrounded (by it).”
“So I believe if people that travel and be around people, I think those are the most understanding people around,” he continued. “If you just stay in your little box or whatever, it’s hard for you to understand and recognize people as they are. So, you know, I take pride in that.”