December Young Professional Spotlight
Meet Jacques Hawkins
Occupation: Community Developer and Urban Farmer
Organization: Soul Fresh Organic Company
Hometown: Rockford, Illinois (The Forest City)
Tell us a little about your Baton Rouge Story. What brought you to Baton Rouge?
I was born and raised in Rockford, Illinois. My dad is a native of Baton Rouge, but moved to the Midwest in the late 1960s. As a child, I would take road trips to Louisiana to visit family on summer break. It wasn’t until the summer of 2001 that I moved here and started my life in Baton Rouge
Tell us more about how you’re involved in Baton Rouge.
With the lack of adequate food access in Baton Rouge, I created a business that takes problems and grows them into sustainable, life changing solutions. Soul Fresh Organic Company is an urban agriculture and gardening service dedicated to educating people on how to grow food and how homegrown foods pack health benefits for one’s self, family, and community. From the design, installation, and maintenance of vegetable gardens for backyards, schools, and restaurants, Soul Fresh Organic Company grows fresh, nutritious produce to give customers the highest–quality food possible. As a result, I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of the Live Healthy BR coalition and participate as a panelist on a nutrition and wellness forum about chronic diseases with The Maxine Firm. My work as an Urban Farmer led me to facilitate a community and school garden at Southern Lab for the 2018 MLK Day Festival of Service by The Walls Project in Scotlandville. I’m also working with the brotherhood of Next Generation Pioneers, which focuses on uplifting the community to support and unify the city.
What is your favorite thing about Baton Rouge?
I would have to say…the people. The community of people I’ve met, especially in the last three years, have been extremely influential in my life. Being able to find creative, like-minded people to build and grow with has made my time in Baton Rouge a blessing.
What is your dream for Baton Rouge?
My plan for Baton Rouge is to grow neighborhoods into healthy, sustainable communities and eliminate any food access problems in the city. By focusing on community development through urban agriculture, we can directly improve the city’s land use management plan by growing green, edible landscapes and eliminating blight. Community gardens and urban farms will assist in the beautification of Baton Rouge, the growth of neighborhoods, and economic development. It only takes the willingness to plant a seed to forever change a community, and now is the time to grow Baton Rouge!
How are young professionals like yourself shaping Baton Rouge?
What I love is the innovation and fearlessness many young professionals have to improve the social and environmental issues affecting the health of the city. Whether it’s from the arts, technology, health, or civic service, the majority are not afraid to take the step to create for the community’s betterment.
What would you say to someone considering a move to Baton Rouge?
To make it plain…the city is what you make it. There’s opportunity for you to create and be successful with positive people motivated to advance the city forward. There’s a mixture of everything you want here, but you have to be open to find it.
What is your Baton Rouge favorite?
- Place to hang out: Atomic Pop Shop record store in Mid City
- Place to capture the perfect Instagram pic: LSU Hilltop Arboretum
- Place to people watch: Saturday morning at the Red Stick Farmer’s Market
- Place to network: BRAC events
- Way to give back: MLK Festival of Service is a four day event in Scotlandville (January 12-15, 2018) where The Walls Project facilitates the painting of murals and blighted buildings, planting community gardens and trees, stenciling house numbers on curbs for first responders, repairing fences, and hauling trash away from properties.
- Event: Eat to Live: Conquering Chronic Diseases Related to Nutrition seminar by The Maxine Firm, January 6, 2018 and Next Generation Pioneers 3rd Annual Pioneer Gala, March 24, 2018 at The Tracy Center
With significant job growth, a bustling arts scene, delectable cuisine, abundant outdoor activities and more, the Capital Region attracts talent of all ages, including young professionals. Whether straight out of college or looking to establish their own business, more and more young professionals are choosing to lay their roots in Baton Rouge.
Each month, BRAC highlights one of these young Baton Rouge Area movers and shakers in the Young Professional Spotlight.