"Mill Village Farms wants to grow food and jobs"
Greenville Journal, Vol 14, No 41, Friday, October 12, 2012
By Cindy Landrum
Nonprofit transforms vacant property into small sustainable farm worked by teens
Mill Village Farms doesn't just want to grow food - it wants to grow jobs for youth in some of Greenville's struggling neighborhoods, too.
Mill Village Farms, a new nonprofit organization in Greenville, wants to transform some abandoned vacant properties in some of the city's low-income neighborhoods into small, sustainable farms that give youth in those communities their first taste of private enterprise.
"It will impact the community positively in two ways," said Dan Weidenbenner, director of Mill Village Farms. "It gives youths in the community their first jobs where they'll learn business and entrepreneurial skills and it increases access to fresh, local produce in low-income food-desert communities."
The groups first farm is in the Sullivan community.
Volunteers recently built raised beds on property owned by Long Branch Baptist Church on the corner of Sullivan and Bolt streets in the Greater Sullivan neighborhood.
Youth interns ages 13 to 21 will market and sell the products they grow to help sustain Mill Village Farms. They could market a value-added product such as sauce or salsa made from produce they raise, Weidenbenner said.
The youth are paid wages.
Mill Village Farms is also partnering with Grace Church in the project.
"When you're trying to develop a community, you've got to have a grass-roots effort," said Weidenbenner, who lives in the Greater Sullivan community.
Long Branch Baptist Church has a neighborhood farmer's market and a food pantry in the area.
Weidenbenner said Mill Village Farms is modeled after the Village Gardens Food Works Program in Portland.
He said late fall and spring plantings will be done, but the heaviest plantings will take place in the summer when the youth are out of school.
Mill Village Farms started this past summer when four interns aged 12 to 15 worked at a farm in the Mills Mill area and at Furman University. During the summer, the youth learned job skills as well as the basics of organic farming.
Weidenbenner said Mill Village Farms could be duplicated in other Greenville neighborhoods with the right partnerships. However, "it's got to be grassroots," he said. "It has to have a partnership with someone in the community who is already working in that community."
For information on Mill Village Farms, go to MilVillageFarms.org or contact Weidenbenner at firstname.lastname@example.org.