Whether its at a speaking engagement, in a gardening class or at the farm store, answering questions is one of my favorite things. Why??? Because I ask a LOT of questions. First seek to understand and all that Stephen Covey goodness, right? New visitors try to wrap their head around who we are and what we do by calling out other noteworthy food programs in the area. From farmer’s market to food pantries to food rescue programs, it gets confusing to distinguish one from the other.

What makes Fresh Future Farm unique is that we embrace food sovereignty – the power to create food security. Our team employs a multi-pronged approached to achieve health, wealth and quality of life for residents.

Here are the top three ways that our nonprofit farm is changing the game.

1) Consistency, Convenience & Customer Service

It’s no big deal that we grow chemical free food. What distinguishes our work is that our farm store is open to the public five days a week, 8 hours a day for more than 50 weeks a year. Chicora-Cherokee residents lived without a grocery store of any kind for 11 years before we opened. Our farm is in a residential neighborhood so customers can walk to our USDA certified grocery store and purchase ‘first run’ produce along with basic and specialty groceries on their schedule. Every member of our team has dealt with poverty so we have a compassion for our customers and set out to give each person top-notch customer service at every visit (psst…those marketable skills build customer loyalty and take you far no matter where you work).

2) Environmental Justice

To be healthy, Americans spend 88% of their money on healthcare BUT environmental factors account for 70% of good health. Beyond our grocery store, we revitalized unused city lots to create functional greenspaces. Consistent beautified spaces are a big deal in blighted neighborhoods. Not only that, we employ regenerative permaculture methods to build and remediate soil from the top down, attract pollinators and create a welcoming environment for people, birds and all the insects in between.

3) Empowering Others to Eat and Live Better

Along with the grocery store and farm, we host monthly volunteer workdays at the farm and nearby community garden. Farm workdays are a workout in themselves but we added yoga sessions led by our friend Kennae Miller of Transformation Yoga.

Last year we added a summer farm camp to the roster and got young people excited about cooking and eating vegetables. We plan to engage students of all ages in more cooking sessions in 2018.

The best news of all is that our methods are resonating with folks in other low wealth communities. You see, in order for communities to make change, they need to see change first. It’s pretty groundbreaking to watch a working class woman of color set a vision and achieve it (or at least be on the road to achieving the vision). Now, there are grassroots groups in Orangeburg, Moncks Corner, Greenville and Spartanburg who are are looking to our urban agriculture work to make long-term changes in their communities.

We are proud of our work and amped to be leading a truly unique endeavor. Check us out on Facebook and Instagram and consider volunteering to support food sovereignty. 2018 is about to be L-I-T, Happy New Year!