Flowers & Bullets (F&B) was founded in early 2012 by two childhood friends, Tito Romero and Jacob Robles, Indigenous-identified men who have lived all their lives in Barrio Centro. Due to the effects of systemic socio-economic and environmental racism in the area, they recognized the need to make this community in Tucson become a sustainable and healthy Barrio Centro neighborhood. Romero and Robles began to create opportunities for their peers through collective organizing and utilized street art and graphic design on t-shirts as a form of resistance. Dora Martinez, an Indigenous woman, joined a year later and worked to co-found the gardening component of F&B, to get more people involved and bring healthy solutions to the community. Now the collective has more than 23 neighborhood members and continues to grow.
In 2016, the neighborhood was informed that a trucking company wanted to purchase the old Julia Keen Elementary school from TUSD, after being shut down and abandoned since 2004. This school and community space was the heart of Barrio Centro. In order to return the former Julia Keen property back to a community focused center, the F&B collective mobilized with the neighborhood to keep it from becoming even more industrialized. F&B brought a proposal to TUSD to rent-to-own the property which was unanimously approved, and they were granted the lease to 4 acres of the property.
In 2018, Flowers and Bullets attained 2 large grants and began to break ground on the land. F&B members grew and worked hard on the farm as they established community gardens, crop production space, and goat herding. They also constructed water harvesting systems, a chicken coop, as well as painted murals, all with the mission to create a safe space for Barrio Centro and the greater Tucson community. In 2019, F&B established enough infrastructure to celebrate with the community and had their grand opening on May 4th, 2019. The neighbors who have lived here for generations were able to participate and utilize the old school community space. Grandparents, grandchildren, and new neighbors in the community could once again enjoy this renewed land. F&B began to engage in conversations with community members in and around Barrio Centro about best uses for the land and began hosting community events such as Upicks, outdoor movie screenings, workshops, trainings, and Second-Saturday farm workdays.
At the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, F&B had to pause all community gatherings and pivot. With mutual aid in mind, they quickly created a rapid response team. The F&B collective dedicated their efforts to keeping the community safe by hosting drive thru rapid response, providing the community with free PPE, hand sanitizer donated in kegs by Thunder Canyon Brewery, free masks and other resources provided with the help and support of local businesses.
In 2021 F&B started to resume community events with new additions. The collective hosted monthly Las Mujeres Verdes mercaditos, and piloted a BSA (Barrio Supported Agriculture) program. Through the BSA, neighbors were able to purchase weekly bags of produce grown at The Midtown Farm and learn new recipes.
Now in 2023, Flowers and Bullets is celebrating their 10-year anniversary! After starting with t-shirts and street art 10 years ago, the F&B collective has navigated with new members and a changing neighborhood, establishing the Midtown Farm, and wading through covid. With the continued help and support of the community, in March 2023, Flowers and Bullets began the process of purchasing the former Julia Keen Elementary School from TUSD. The collective now faces more growth and continues to reimagine all 9.5 acres of land with community input. With their mission to establish and support sustainable and healthy living, the collective looks forward to building and creating a space of healing, health, and sustainability for communal gatherings and future generations.