Someone asked me at Mike Martin and Gena Januseski’s Purposeful Entrepreneurship event last Monday how I got started with Fresh Future Farm. When I think back on it, this whole concept of creating a place-based and equitable community farm sprang out of my small family’s need for quality food and relationships almost 15 years ago.
We built good relationships through getting connected to a local church (and an AMAZING single mom’s small group) and after I enrolled my kids into the Cannon Street YMCA. At the time I was a returning adult student and single mom finishing my college career at Johnson & Wales University. I went from working full-time to being unemployed and on food stamps in a matter of weeks, I promised my kids then that when we moved out of public housing we were gonna have our own house and that house would have a garden. The next 12 or so years are a blur:
1) Leading a Plant-A-Row for the Hungry group that helped me glean fresh veggies for the Y (after graduating with honors and taking a job as Kid’s Cafe Cook)
2) Volunteering with my dear friend Karen at the Children’s Garden Project
3) Taking on the job of Nutrition Coordinator at the Lowcountry Food Bank AND getting married
4) Earning Master Gardener certification from Clemson Extension
4) Purchasing our first home and joining Metanoia as a board member and school garden volunteer
5) Diving headfirst into Neighborworks America training with classes like Affordable Place-making, Taking Green Action in your Community, Creating Public Markets and Community Economic Development
6) Working with Metanoia to start Chicora Place Community Garden
7) Learning the ABCs of effective farming as a part of SC Community Loan Fund’s Feeding Innovation competition
8) Teaching about and then meeting my urban ag idol, (aka the Godfather of Soil) Will Allen and earning my certification in Commercial Urban Agriculture with Growing Power
9) Receiving a 5 year lease and business zoning from the City of North Charleston on what is now Fresh Future Farm
This body of experience has taught us that grassroots community development is the only sustainable way to grow good food and healthy, happy customers. Normally a dollar that is spent in the inner city only hangs around for a few minutes before heading out with shop owners and employees to benefit other well-to-do communities. Our project strives to grow food where its needed most and keep the dollars in the community through providing additional services (cooking demonstrations, farm tours, etc.) AND training residents to work with us. A month ago we capped off a year of transforming a vacant lot into a bonafide inner-city farm to actually accepting SNAP benefits for the food we are growing. Moving from point A to point B took a LOT of hands from folks like Nick Tittle, Charleston Permaculture Guild, East Cooper Montessori School, College of Charleston interns, Day of Caring Volunteers, and so many more individuals and groups. The farm has also benefited from financial support from many individuals and organizations – THANKS TO ALL WHO HAVE SUPPORTED US.
Before I scour my closet for the one pair of non-running shoes I own to attend tonight’s Giving Back Awards, I wanted to invite friends both new and old to consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our work over the next few months. We’re running an end of the year Farmraising Campaign with hopes of supporting the following items:
*A glass door commercial refrigerator (to match our commercial freezer) – $3000
*First month of farm grocery store inventory – $2500
*Utility Costs – $400/month
*ADA accessible ramp to our parking lot – $1500
*Miscellaneous administrative costs (resident intern stipends, etc.) – $1000
The beauty of a donation to Fresh Future Farm is that your contribution will extend well beyond Chicora-Cherokee’s borders. One of the additional services will include sharing what we’ve learned over the years with other struggling Lowcountry communities.
Happy Holidays to all and thanks for taking the time to check us out!
CEO, Farm & Market Director
Fresh Future Farm Inc.