Skip to content

Owner Of Roots & Vine Produce And Cafe Helps Black Farmers Grow

Ena Jones, a small business owner and community farmer out of Chicago, IL, speaks at a very measured pace, taking care to make every point land so that the person with whom she is talking understands her clearly. After chatting with Jones for a few minutes, one gets the sense that she expects to be understood, especially when talking about her passion for “real food for real people” and her business, Roots & Vine Produce And Cafe.

When asked how she came to her chosen area of interest, Jones chuckles only slightly before becoming pointed again.

“It was definitely destined. I was born and raised in Chicago,” said Jones, pausing momentarily before continuing, her voice brightening ever so slightly over the telephone. “But my favorite nursery rhyme was The Country Mouse,” laughing at the reference to one of Aesop’s famous fables adventuring mouse cousins.

“So, I’ve always been interested in farming!”

Photo Courtesy Roots & Vine Produce And Cafe

After giving a bit of insight into her early life and her background in “the culinary arts,” becoming a chef and herbalist right out of high school, she returns to a serious tone and gets to the heart of why she does what she does now.

“In 2005, I was reading an article in the “Chicago Tribune,” and it was talking about … there are 72,000 farmers in the state of Illinois; how many are Black? And the answer was only 57,” Jones said.

“And so that pulls at my heartstrings so badly. So I’m thinking, I’m thinking to myself, what can I do on my level, where I can help the farmers, you know, increase their economic growth.”

Photo Courtesy Roots & Vine Produce And Cafe  

“So, you know, I had a restaurant, a couple of restaurants during that time, and I’m like, What can I do?” Jones continued. “So I’m like, the worst thing to do is to say you want to help somebody you don’t know what their needs are.”

Taking that simple but effective challenge to learn more about the needs of these Black farmers in her state, Jones dove headlong into finding solutions.

“For the past seven, eight years, [I was] just traveling and meeting farmers and going between events and conferences and things like that, just learning about them and truly learning about their plight … you know, firsthand experience instead of, you know, just reading about things,” she said. “Building relationships so I can see what angle I needed to do. So, that’s when we developed Roots & Vine Produce and Cafe.”

Photo Courtesy Roots & Vine Produce And Cafe  

Jones’s enthusiasm for her business and mission truly shines through as she begins talking about Roots & Vine Produce and Cafe. Its mission, simply put, is to help all farmers.

“Even the smallest farmer; they may be one of the best growers. But if they don’t grow in volume, they can’t supply a major chain grocery store, which everybody fights to get into,” she said. “So, I decided to open up a full-service grocery store at the convenience level and put them in food desert communities.”

“And so we can help even the smallest farmers, so even if they grow 10 cucumbers, we can buy them,” she explains before laughing a bit and continuing,

“Albertson’s don’t want them, you know, Piggly Wiggly don’t want them, but we can take them!”

This last sentiment seems to be the whole point driving Ena Jones and Roots & Vine Produce and Cafe: helping her fellow person, especially the farmers in her community and around the country.

Photo Courtesy Roots & Vine Produce And Cafe  

Jones puts it very succinctly. “You know, what I am trying to … I really want to get in a position to help more people, you know, with their own personal legends in this space.”

Jones strives to do this by using her more than a decade of gained knowledge on opening and running a small business and operating a farm in a food desert. She also uses her platform to give contemporaries in her field a place to ply their wares. It’s safe to say that Ena Jones’s own legend is alive and well.

Share on Social

Back To Top