Public Statement on Bensley Agrihood Rezoning

For the past 3 years, the Bensley Agrihood Planning Project (BAPP) cohort has been working to build Bensley Agrihood in North Chesterfield, Virginia. The cohort is comprised of Happily Natural Day, Girls For A Change, and Maggie Walker Community Land Trust. Our proposal is quite simple: acquire 8 acres off of Jeff Davis/Arthur Ashe Blvd and build 10 affordable homes, 4 tiny homes, a community farm, and a wellness center. All in an area with a rising concentration of poverty and lack of access to healthy food.

After three years of collaboration, community engagement, planning, and building strong partnerships with the USDA and other organizations, the BAPP has been forced to pull its zoning application from Chesterfield County due to repeated unfortunate delays. Below is the official statement from Girls For A Change CEO, Angela Patton.

“We at Girls For A Change are deeply disheartened by the consistent roadblocks we have faced in advancing our community through the Bensley Agrihood project. Despite our extensive efforts to transform an empty lot into a vibrant community asset in partnership with local residents, we have encountered significant resistance. This resistance is particularly troubling as it targets the leadership of two Black leaders deeply rooted in the Richmond Tri-City area.

I am not only the CEO of Girls For A Change; I am also a resident of the community. I  have faced repeated disregard as both a leader and a resident. I, along with other leaders, was excluded from key meetings, and there was a refusal to engage with us meaningfully. This pattern of divide-and-conquer tactics has undermined trust and stifled collaboration. It is disheartening to witness the unwillingness to learn, build trust, and foster partnerships that are crucial for community advancement.

Girls For A Change aimed not only to fulfill the project goals outlined in the public statement but also to provide early access to homeownership for participants in our programs. This initiative was designed to break the cycle of disenfranchisement, support wealth building, and create a safe, communal living environment. It sought to equip participants with entrepreneurial skills and establish a replicable model that could extend beyond our immediate community.

Despite having the necessary tools, tenacity, funding, and a proven team, we have been thwarted from expanding access to homeownership and advancing racial equity. This project, rooted in philanthropy and partnership, stood to benefit current and future homeowners, businesses, and the broader community. We are grateful for our investors and collaborators, whose support is usually instrumental in pushing and succeeding with racial equity initiatives.

Our vision was robust and inclusive. We followed all required protocols, engaged partners, raised funds and awareness, and involved the community at every step. Yet, systemic discrimination within the real estate industry and government policy has once again marginalized Black voices and obstructed progress.

Girls For A Change remains committed to creating equitable opportunities and will continue to fight against these unjust barriers. We believe in the power of community-driven development and will persist in our efforts to bring about meaningful change for all residents of Bensley.” – Angela Patton
CEO, Girls For A Change

Additionally, other stakeholders have made statements:

Maggie Walker Land Trust official statement

Happily Natural Day official statement

Richmond BizSense article: Nonprofit withdraws ‘agrihood’ project, alleges racial discrimination against Chesterfield supervisor, commissioner

Richmond Times Dispatch article: Chesterfield agrihood project — a mini-farm and affordable homes — dies

How you can support us

On Sunday, June 23rd the BAPP cohort will share its experience negotiating with Chesterfield County’s Board of Supervisors during the rezoning process. There will be an opportunity for the community to voice its support and concerns. Your presence and participation are crucial in this process. Following the Speak Out, there will be an on-site Agroforestry education on soil health and composting, courtesy of Compost RVA.

Community members, partners, allies, and the Press are asked to RSVP

Bensley Agrihood Service Day and Speak Out
Sunday, June 23
2600 Swineford Rd
Chesterfield, VA 23237

Bensley Agrihood in the press

Since our project was announced, we have received praise and media attention for the innovative project: Richmond Free Press, Greater Greater Washington, VPM. This month, the project was named Best Affordable Housing Experiment in Style Weekly’s Best of Richmond issue.