News

"To Live the Life of Influencers" by Lajadia Seawright

As we conclude the summer here at Mill Village Farms we are all filled with so many emotions. This summer one of our youth, Lajadia shared her thoughts through this beautiful poem. We think it really encapsulates the incredible heart & drive of our teens! Enjoy :-)

Sprouting out of the ground we have grown new friendships

Built a family of love

It's crazy this is our last day together like the plants we've pulled out of the ground

You can’t fake moments like this

We will try not to forget the bond we have made like the soil. Not forgetting to grow organic fruit.

Roots from every working arm bedded to the farm. We are the farm keepers.

Kids looking for work what better way to work then being keepers of the great Lord's earth.

God has brought us together for a reason making families, changing people's lives

He has brought us here to change, not only change, but live the life of influencers.

-Lajadia Seawright

 
 

Meet Jordan

I learned the importance of going outside of my comfort zone

On the first day at the farm, I would have said Jordan McDaniel would be one of the quietest and most reserved of the students. Today, I would tell you that Jordan is not only more outgoing than he was on the first day, he is also one of the most hard working of the students. Jordan became a reliable worker as the summer wore on. Not only was he reliable, he also carried a positive attitude into each and every task.

It has been a pleasure to watch Jordan mature and grow in his work ethic, respect for authority, and desire to learn. We had the opportunity to take the students on a camping trip to the Blue Ridge at Black Balsam. During this trip, it was amazing to watch the students explore nature, and tackle experiences that were outside of their comfort zone.

I believe Mill Village has given Jordan the opportunity to discover some of his natural talents. Through our farm program, Jordan has been challenged, stretched, and encouraged to dig deep and discover more about himself. Jordan has learned not only through work on the farm, but also through time spent on our Mobile Market, and in Cooking and Money Skills classes. Below is a short interview to help you learn more about Jordan and his experience at Mill Village Farms.

Q: What school do you go to?

Berea High School

Q: What grade will you be going into?

10th

Q: What are some of your hobbies?

I love playing baseball and video games. I also love hanging out with my friends and going to the movies and Sky Zone.

Q: What is your favorite place you have been?

The Georgia Dome for a band competition.

Q: What is your favorite sports team?

The Cleveland Cavaliers

Q: What do you want to be when you get older?

A professional baseball player and then after that a baseball coach.

Q: What is your favorite memory from this summer?

I loved going on the camping trip. We did a lot of things I had never done before. I had never slept in a tent, so it was a new experience for me. I learned how to make a fire and set up a tent. I learned the importance of going outside of my comfort zone by sleeping and going to the restroom all outside.

Q: What has been your favorite part about being on the farm?

I like working out at Serenity farm, it is my favorite of the three farms we have worked on this summer. I really like putting down mulch at the farm. It not only makes the farm more beautiful, but also helps with the weeds. I love how we have worked as a team and worked hard together.

Q: What is one thing you will take away from this summer?

I learned a lot of skills such as team work, people skills, not being as shy or embarrassed to talk to people, and learning to make eye contact with others.

Q: How have you grown from being on the farm?

I feel like I have become more responsible. I have learned to do things right away rather than doing it later. For example, when my mom asked me to take out the trash, I do it right away rather than doing it later that night or making her ask me again.

Q: What is something you wish you knew before the summer started?

I wish I knew better how to budget my money so I wouldn’t spend it right when I got it.

Q: What was it liked to be named Crew Member of the Week?

It made me feel happy because they saw my improvement in my work and that I was working really hard.

Q: What would you want people to know about Mill Village?

It is a great opportunity for teens to get a job and learn how to have better people skills, build character, and get ready for the real world.

 

Written by Robert Cain, Summer Intern

With Community, Failure Isn’t Fatal

Fired from a job. Failing a required class. Not having a resume to get a new job. Not graduating on time.

These struggles are all too common among youth in Greenville. And for most of those students, having any two or more of these issues would be too high of a hurdle to overcome. And if all four happened, it could be the end of the story, or at least the beginning of a long and arduous road to recovery.

However, with one youth from Mill Village Farms, these all were milestones on a path of success, which demonstrated the importance of community and perseverance.

Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.
— John Wooden

Dion worked for Mill Village since the spring of 2015. A respectful and hardworking young man, he showed lots of promise. He got along well with others and his team (Village Fashion). He even won the youth entrepreneurship competition in the summer of 2015. As Dion headed into his senior year at Carolina High Academy, his future was looking bright.

But then the roadblocks came. Whether it was him taking on too many opportunities, or a case of “senioritis,” or any number of personal challenges, things started going downhill for Dion.

After repeatedly showing up late or missing work, Dion was fired from the fall 2015 Youth Crew at Mill Village. (We have a generous but rigid “six strikes and you're out policy” for this standard.) We told him that we loved him, and that we wanted him to work for us again, but that he needed to feel the pain of losing a job, in order to learn a lesson for his own sake.

Dion did return in the spring, and was much better about his dependability. He would even ride his bike in the rain to make it to the Powered for Life youth development class on time! It was during this class that Dion learned of an opportunity to intern with BL Harbert, a local construction company. As a hopeful engineer, Dion knew this opportunity could propel him toward success.

One problem: Dion needed to fill out a lengthy application and write a resume. And he needed help.

Dion received that help from his Powered for Life mentor (a volunteer from Grace Church) and got it all done. Again, things were looking bright.

But then Dion’s guidance counselor (Also a mentor in the Powered for Life class) informed us that he was in danger of failing his English class, which was a requirement for graduation. It wasn’t for a lack of intelligence that Dion was failing (he was in a couple of college-level classes his senior year), but more of a lack of effort and focus. He wasn’t turning in the required assignments.

We pushed and encouraged and stressed to him the importance of doing his school work. Dion took several steps forward, but it was too little, too late. Dion would not make up the lost ground. He would not graduate with his classmates in June.

But Dion didn’t quit. And the people who cared about him (family, school staff, Mill Village Farms, the Ally Partner business who hired him) didn’t quit on him either. Dion enrolled in summer school to make up the credit, while still working part time at BL Harbert. He persevered and did all his school work, while gaining invaluable work experience.

In August, Dion received his diploma, and enrolled in college to continue on his path to success in life.

At Mill Village Farms, we agree that “it takes a village to grow a child.”  And we understand that that God has given each person unique gifts, along with struggles and challenges -- some that are unique, and some that are common. 

But with two gifts from God -- inner strength and a loving community -- our youth can hop over life’s hurdles, and flourish in life.

“Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.” (Psalm 37:24)

“You never fail until you stop trying.”  -- Albert Einstein

 

 

Mill Village Market Celebrates Grand Opening in Village of West Greenville

On a surprisingly beautiful afternoon in late January, Mill Village Market celebrated its official Grand Opening with over 300 neighbors, supporters, and friends. The fellowship was filled with live musical performance by our neighbor Clay Westbrooke and Sloan Click. The party would not have been complete without some great food from our friend James Hester at Wholly Smoke BBQ Food Truck and some authentic quesadillas hand-made by one of our neighbors in Woodside. The festivities even spilled into the streets where neighbors and visitors shared laughs and stories. 

The party concluded with a Green Ribbon Cutting with special guests, Greenville City Council Member and Urban League Executive Director, Jil Littlejon, our business association president and Upstate Business Journal Publisher, Ryan Johnston, and our neighborhood association president and Bethel Bible Pastor, Vardrey Flemming. We even had some of our closest supporters join us, including community advocate Peggy Baxter, ScanSource Charitable Board Member, Joel Douglass, Long Branch Baptist Church's First Lady Satreva Dogan and even former Secretary of Education and Governor Dick Riley.

The celebration marks the beginning of a fresh start in the westside of Greenville with local and fresh food abounding and budding job-training and employment opportunities for teens to be at the forefront of building hope and service in our neighborhoods. 

If you missed it, don't fret, we are already dreaming of another block party in the warmer months! Come stop by and see what everyone is talking about at Mill Village Market located at 8 Lois Ave, Greenville, SC 29611 Monday & Friday: 9am-5pm, Tuesday-Thursday: 9am-7pm, and Saturday 10am-3pm. 

 

 

The Recipe That Inspired a Career

I will readily admit that I am a grown-up (unfortunately) who often doesn't know which direction I should take in life. I know my greater purpose though, and I believe that if I keep making small steps with good intentions then God will steer me down the path I'm meant to take. And small, seemingly insignificant things done with great intentions, by many people, can lead to monumental changes.

This is why it helps to have a village. The village can raise the child (for better or worse) and the village nurtures the adult. It inspires us to be more than just our solitary selves.

Hannah's journey with Mill Village began when a science teacher did a small thing with good intention; he started a garden at her high school. She took the step of starting a Garden Club to maintain that garden with her best friend. Her interest in the garden let that science teacher to suggest she look to Mill Village Farms for a summer job. She took that step too, and working with MVF put her inside a very unique Village. Here she had access to the resources and the experts who could challenge her to grow. At MVF her group was given a problem to solve: how can MVF get customers to take an interest in the more obscure veggies that grow locally? Things like squash, okra, and eggplant don't seem easy to serve simply steamed; we need some guidance on what to do with them. It seems like an obvious marketing question for a farmer to ask, but it turns out the question had a much higher purpose within it.

About this time, another passionate person intervened with a small thing done with great intentions. Traci Lynne Barr, a long time advocate of the whole food movement, a chef and an educator jumped into the mix. She offered to teach the kids some of the culinary skills they needed to help them solve their problem; how to make worthy stuff out of those poorly understood veggies.


She invited Hannah's work group to her home for a lesson. What resulted was a beautiful Ratatouille and an even more beautiful mentoring relationship. That evening Hannah was so inspired by Traci's energy and passion for the potential of good food that she began down a new path. She realized she enjoyed the process of cooking: going through specific steps to get a unique and personal result and then offering it to others to nurture them, but also to learn their perceptions of it.

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The Ratatouille and it's recipe was offered as a sample at MVF's mobile market. It had the desired result of encouraging customers to buy more local, seasonal vegetables to try making it themselves.

Hannah decided to use her new joy of cooking for a project at school and asked Traci to mentor her again. For this project Hannah wrote a recipe book called "Through Curiosity" and presented it at school with a dish Traci had shown her: a simple Butternut Squash Soup served with homemade croutons.

Hannah realized the value in being able to give others comfort and make them healthier with a simple nutritious meal. Her grandmother had also demonstrated this to her with her ability to take the most meager ingredients and turn them into something delicious. Hannah admired the skill & creativity she saw in these formidable women.

Over her time with Traci and MVF, Hannah had also come to appreciate the importance of fresh food to our health, and wants to see everyone have access to it. The fact that some of us are not able to open the fridge and find something natural and unpackaged disturbs her.

Hannah's chosen post-secondary path is now somewhere in the food world and she's currently investigating her options at several Culinary schools in the South. So all those small steps taken within the Village will raise Hannah, and in the long run, all of us to greater heights.

Story written by Tricia Reynolds

The summer begins at our Youth Retreat!

Just under a week ago, I stood in the parking lot of Long Branch Baptist Church anxiously awaiting the arrival of a motley crew of youths ranging from fourteen to seventeen years of age.  These teens are the members of the annual Mill Village Farms Youth Entrepreneurship Program and, before this past weekend, complete strangers.  As an intern, it is my job to lead a crew of seven.  Being my first true position of leadership, my mind raced with the possibilities of the summer:  the fun, the troubles, and the new experiences.  I eagerly paced back and forth on the asphalt.  It was a Friday.

At around 4:30 PM the youth members began trickling in, escorted by their parents.  Each teen sporting a sleeping bag and a backpack full of supplies for the overnight orientation retreat.  With demeanors ranging from sheepish to jubilant, the youth partners mingled and made small talk.  By 5:15 everyone had arrived and Dan Weidenbenner, the Executive Director of Mill Village Farms (MVF), explained to the parents we would be back by 3 PM the next day and we loaded into the cars.

The retreat was fantastic, largely thanks to MVF interns Lauren Taylor and Kristina Benson.  The retreat consisted of a cookout, games, a bonfire, and s’mores, all punctuated by name games and orientation sessions.  While I enjoyed all of the weekend, there was one activity that stood out to me:  fishing.

At Serenity Farm, the location of the retreat and one of MVF’s three farms, there is a small pond stocked with bass and a few turtles.  On its banks is an old john-boat.  Early Saturday morning a young man approached me about taking him out on the boat to try and catch a few bass.  It was his first time on a boat and he stepped into its tin hull like a deer into a clearing.  Being the mature person I am, I immediately began rocking back and forth.  He grabbed onto the sides and angrily commanded me to stop.  After a few minutes, he began to relax.  Fishing has very little to do with farming or the entrepreneurship program but that young man stepped out of his comfort zone and embraced a strange new experience which I believe to be the point of the whole summer.  We may be hot and sweaty but we will learn and experience new things that will help us grow and shape our perspective on the world around us.

-Hal McLeod, MVF Crew Leader

Fishing has very little to do with farming or the entrepreneurship program but that young man stepped out of his comfort zone and embraced a strange new experience which I believe to be the point of the whole summer.

Greenville Women giving generously awards $61,000 for Mill Village Farms' Youth Program

 On May 6th  2015, Greenville Women Giving held its Ninth Annual Celebration to award its 2015 grantees. Mill Village Farms was awarded $61,000 to expand and improve its job training and employment opportunities for youth (ages 14-18) in Greenville County. 

“We are humbled and honored that Greenville Women Giving has chosen to generously award Mill Village Farms this year. We are truly inspired to see the faithful dedication of these women to continuously give back and invest in the good work of our community. Because of their commitment to our community, we are eager to see the impact that these funds will have on our local youth,” said Dan Weidenbenner, Mill Village Farms Executive Director

Mill Village Farms began nearly three years ago with a mission to empower our community’s underserved youth with a first-time job opportunity while also teaching basic job skills, sustainable agriculture, and entrepreneurship. Through the financial commitment of Greenville Women Giving, Mill Village Farms expects to provide over 55 youth with an opportunity to serve their neighbors by growing farm fresh foods while also learning invaluable soft-skills, responsibility, and leadership.

About Greenville Women Giving: Greenville Women Giving (GWG) granted $541,218 to eight nonprofit organizations at its ninth Annual Meeting on May 6, 2015. In total, GWG has awarded over $3.6 million to Greenville County non-profits. Membership is open to any woman who commits to donate $1,000 per year for 3 years to the collective fund. To learn more about GWG, visit: www.greenvillewomengiving.org

See the coverage here in the Greenville News

Mill Village Farms teams up with Euphoria and Greenville County Schools to launch Healthy Lunchtime Throwdown

I can’t imagine a better way to secure a better food future than teaching the wee ones the value of food, the work that goes into growing and preparing it, and encouraging the creativity and joy that goes into making a meal for loved ones. - See more at: Cooking Light

For the first time in its ten-year history, euphoria will celebrate the skills and culinary achievements of Greenville’s young chefs by hosting the first annual Kids in the Kitchen: Healthy Lunchtime Throwdown contest. 

Open to all Greenville County Schools students between the ages of 8 and 12, the recipe and cooking contest allows district students from across the area to submit their original, healthy, affordable and delicious recipes online at www.euphoriagreenville.com/kidsrecipe now through May 29. The winner, who will be selected at a special cook-off event during euphoria on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, will win a prize package from LiveWell Greenville, Tupelo Honey Cafe and Mill Village Farms and have his or her recipe added to the Greenville County Schools menu during the 2015-2016 school year. 

The euphoria contest is modeled after First Lady Michelle Obama’s Healthy Lunchtime Challenge and Kids’ State Dinner, an annual event that promotes healthy eating and healthy lifestyles for children across the United States. 

“Greenville County Schools is dedicated to providing fresh, healthy meals each day during the school year to the district’s nearly 72,000 students, and we encourage kids to take an active role in making healthy food choices year-round,” said Joe Urban, director of Greenville County Schools Food and Nutrition Services. “This contest provides a phenomenal opportunity to help children across our community understand the importance of balanced nutrition -- not to mention the fact that cooking and eating healthy can be fun and rewarding,” added Urban. 

Judges of the contest include Tanya Steel, founder of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge and Kids’ State Dinner in conjunction with First Lady Michelle Obama, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Steel is also Award Director of the Julia Child Award, former editor-in-chief of epicurious.com and also was an editor at Bon Appetit and Food & Wine magazines. She’s the author of Real Food for Healthy Kids and the Epicurious Cookbook. At euphoria, Steel will be joined by celebrity chefs Curtis Duffy (chef/owner of the Michelin three-star restaurant Grace in Chicago) and David Kinch (chef/owner of the Michelin two-star restaurant Manresa in San Francisco) along with “star” chefs from schools across the district to help prepare the top recipes submitted for the contest. 

“Challenging kids and their parents to take an interest in what they eat, to choose healthy ingredients and focus on healthy meal preparation provides an opportunity to educate and shift perceptions,” said Steel. “The goal of this contest as well as the national Healthy Lunchtime Challenge is not only to enhance understanding of the benefits of healthy eating and healthy lifestyles, but to also make America’s kids true stakeholders in their own health and nutrition for a lifetime.” 

Entrants of the first annual Kids in the Kitchen: Healthy Lunchtime Throwdown contest are required to submit original recipes that adhere to My Plate guidelines, are healthy, delicious and economical. Based on these criteria, finalists will be selected by a panel of local judges in June 2015 and will be announced in August 2015. These finalists will participate in a live cook off – which is the first kids’ event in euphoria’s ten-year history – on Sept. 20, 2015. 

About euphoria

This year, euphoria celebrates its 10th year as one of the country’s premier food, wine and music festivals, September 17 – 20, 2015 (EuphoriaGreenville.com; @AchieveEuphoria). What began in 2006 as a one-day festival highlighting Greenville, SC’s culture, depth of talent and outstanding revitalized downtown, now draws more than 6,000 people from 30 states and multiple countries for a four-day weekend featuring nationally acclaimed chefs, celebrity singers and songwriters, craft brewers, Master Sommeliers, and unique luxury experiences. Proceeds from euphoria Food, Wine & Music Festival benefit charitable organizations that focus on providing sustenance to those in need, educating through music, and supporting children in need across the Upstate of South Carolina. 

Prepare for a 4-day state of food, wine + music euphoria: September 17 – 20, 2015.

MILL VILLAGE FARMS AND MAYOR KNOX WHITE DEDICATE SOUTH CAROLINA’S FIRST ROOFTOP FARM

Mill Village Farms dedicated South Carolina’s first rooftop farm in downtown Greenville

atop the commercial building at the northeast corner of Main and Washington streets. The event also served as a celebration of the city’s urban sustainability efforts on the eve of Earth Day. The rooftop farm includes 50 aeroponic tower gardens that will harvest up to 600 plants weekly for use in downtown restaurants. The harvested produce will also be available directly to local residents from Mill Village Farms mobile farmers market. 

“Much of Greenville’s progress has been powered by entrepreneurs, companies and non-profits that have developed successful partnerships that prioritize the wellbeing, health and prosperity of our community and environment,” said Mayor Knox White. “As the city continues to develop and thrive, we remain committed to supporting and celebrating sustainability projects such as the Mill Village Farms rooftop farm.” 

In addition to providing fresh produce, the rooftop farm will support Mill Village Farms’ mission of employing and developing at-risk and high-potential youth in the community by providing job training and professional skills development, along with experience in sustainable agriculture, personal finance and entrepreneurship. 

“With the addition of the rooftop farm, we aim to yield upwards of 15,000 of produce in 2015 while employing and training more than 45 teens in our community throughout the year,” said Dan Weidenbenner, director of Mill Village Farms. “Thanks to the ongoing support of the city, individual donors and the business community, Mill Village Farms continues to promote sustainability, healthy lifestyles and job creation in Greenville.” 

According to Weidenbenner, the vertical aeroponic garden towers use less than ten percent of the water and land required by traditional, soil-based agriculture. Each vertical garden tower grows up to 44 plants and occupies only 2.5 by 2.5 feet of space at a height of 8 feet per tower. These vertical systems recycle 100 percent of nutrients and water while growing plants at twice the speed of normal soil-based farming. 

The launch of the state’s first rooftop farm is the result of the generosity of a variety of business sponsors that help fund the purchase, planting, growth and maintenance of the towers. The rooftop space for the farm is provided by Hughes Development Corporation. 

We're growing and growing! So now we're hiring!

 
 

Are you highly-motivated, community-minded, and passionate about local food? Check out some of the available job and internship opportunities at Mill Village Farms and Good to Go Mobile Market! Click and learn about each position below. Apply by submitting your resume to dan@millcommunity.org.

Full-Time, Good to Go Mobile Market Executive Director

Part-Time, Seasonal, Good to Go Market Manager

Crew Leader, Internship  



Come lend a hand at Farm Fresh Fair 2014

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As summer fades and fall dawns, we are in great anticipation for Farm Fresh Fair 2014 out at The Farm at Rabon Creek! This curated event is filled with local entrepreneurs offering vintage trinkets to organic treats all surrounded by farm animals and live music. This event is benefiting Mill Village Farms and we need your help! We are looking for volunteers to help set-up on Friday, September 19th from 3pm-7pm (SPOTS FILLED) OR on Saturday, September 20th from 1pm-5pm for this special occasion. Whether it's assisting our vendors, selling tickets at the door, or just parking cars... we need you! As an extra bonus, you will receive a one of our Farm Fresh Fair 2014 fitted tees. Please complete the form to sign up and we will be in touch. We are looking for 25 volunteers to join!  Are you ready?

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Come volunteer with us at our urban farms!

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Calling all spring gardeners! We thrilled to be on our way to the spring season. We would love for you to come join us in volunteering at either one of our downtown urban farms (Sullivan Street and Mills Mill) on Saturday, March 8th from 8:30am-Noon. We will be prepping many of our beds while seeding some of our spring crops. We will all meet at 8:30am at our Sullivan St Farm on the campus of Long Branch Baptist Church (28 Bolt Street, Greenville, SC 29605). Please bring garden gloves. Sign up below to join!

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