I got home from grocery shopping at midnight after spending the day cleaning and prepping for a final building inspection, sending off work texts and e-mails, making lists and more lists of the food and sundry items we still need to make the farm store worthwhile to the folks we plan to serve. Now it’s 1:53 am and I’m marking my kid’s attendance and classwork for home school assignments, getting ready to finish a grant that’s due in a few hours, finish this blog post and make a few more tiny edits to this fabulously upgraded website that Tim Latsbaugh, Robin McCoy and the team over at 2nd Floor Co bedazzled for us.
Then it’s me sending off some flyers to a board member for printing and a little bit of prep for my accounting meeting at 9 am. Before that I’ll drop hubby off at work at 6:30 am, wake up my teenage home schooler 5 or 10 times, run back to the store to grab the frozen meals that wouldn’t fit in the car and visit the Building Department. Shoot, now it’s 2:05 I gotta focus!
Nonprofit folks wear a lot of hats but in most instances you do so in a place where there’s many established benefactors. Lesser known grassroots nonprofit like FFF wear all the hats while turning the green that you give into something worth working 15 hour days for without the benefit of a regular paycheck. Those of you who are serious about food justice and self-sufficiency should consider becoming ‘fffans’ by making a Lowcountry Giving Day donation on Tuesday, May 3rd. Why, you ask?
Fresh Future Farm is the passion that I’ll be clogging your Instagram and Facebook feeds to promote for the next 3 consecutive days because I was fed up in 2009. Fed up ladies and gents with being one of the few families on our block who were eating and cooking like kings. Not because we were rich, but because that was how we figured we would need to live to (sorta) afford the carpool hell of driving our kids 440 miles a week to and from passing schools outside our community, keeping the lights on and paying the mortgage on a home that was almost instantly underwater after the foreclosure kerfuffle.
During that time, I started taking community economic development classes and doing the math. How is our leaving the neighborhood for almost every good and service benefiting us and/or our neighbors? Why is it that I finally fixed my credit to buy a home and now have a worse quality of life than when we lived in public housing? Why aren’t the good jobs, the good schools, and the good life in general overflowing for us like it is in the Mt. Pleasant or downtown Charleston? And what can I do to make our neighborhood more like Mayberry? Not once do I recall Opie and them standing in a bread line. Even with all his problems Otis was never treated like a criminal. Instead, most residents had careers and the resources to care for and cater to each other needs – that’s the same thing that happens everyday in the suburbs.
Investments in infrastructure bring the well paid people and entrepreneurs that beget the good jobs, the killer schools and the good life that we only dream about because our house is sitting in the middle of an economic dust bowl. There are more giveaways than pollen in the southern end of North Chuck but finding a good paying job within walking or biking distance is like finding a needle in a haystack. Despite our predicament, I knew how to cook and learned to grow high quality food on a budget, taught myself how to raise hens and then got my friends and peers excited about growing their own food too. I took even more classes and started gardening for others as a part-time gig and the rest is history. Along with growing our own food, we bought our clothing second hand, I learned how to coupon, and I cut my husband’s hair at home. We built wealth by reducing our expenses and living that way for seven years has allowed us to refinance our home for a lower interest rate on a 15 year mortgage.
On Tuesday, we will open the first mini-market with lots of healthy meal options that haven’t been available to the Chicora-Cherokee community since Winn-Dixie closed in 2005. Our mini retail store sits on a .81 acre permaculture farm right in the middle of a residential neighborhood so residents can walk to get good food (reducing expenses again). We will SELL – not give away – food at affordable prices thanks in huge part to grants and yours truly dusting off the coupon skills to track every buy one get one free sale and closeout deal. We’ll use monetary donations, revenue and grants to add more programming, like:
- farm tours with ancestry training and cooking demonstrations led by trained students
- an incubator kitchen to create value added items (longer shelf life and better profit margins) and then rent the space to trained food entrepreneurs
- urban farmer training to build out more urban farms to create an oasis in a food desert (aka the ‘Mayberryfication’ of an inner-city community)
Our vision requires an influx of moolah y’all, so you’ll be hearing from me, our board and our friends more than usual for the next few days. During that time you’ll learn how we have leveraged every dollar we’ve received to do incredible things. My prayer is that many of you will be moved enough to keep growing that investment. Lowcountry Giving Day 2016 is Tuesday, May 3rd. We invite you to go online and make a donation at text.gives/fffans or text ‘fffans’ to 33923. If our story really touches your heart, please consider stepping up your support and signing on as a ‘Catalyst.’ Your $1000 matching challenge donation will help us create the kind of excitement that germinates even more giving.
The struggle is real when you’re getting started and grassroots work cannot produce change overnight. One of the benefits of training up people in an underserved neighborhoods with marketable skills is that there are long term benefits. For example, you can come home from a busy day to your 17 year old nailing his first veggie filled pot roast paired with spinach you grew two miles from your house.
Didn’t somebody say something about lemonade a week ago? Fresh Future Farm is our take on an economic, educational and environmental lemonade stand. The best part is that it’s replicable.