Taylor Community Supported Agriculture Project

Final Report for CS03-016

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2003: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Region: Southern
State: Alabama
Principal Investigator:
Evelyn Williams
The United Christian Community Association, Inc.
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Project Information

Abstract:

The Sustainable Community Innovation Grant has enabled TUCCA to work with community members and youth on small, sustainable agriculture projects and training. The combination of land, funding and training resources has created an opportunity for Taylor Community residents to access markets in nearby urban centers. At this point, several small farmers and youth participants from within the Taylor Community have benefited from the grant by receiving training and becoming producers in several enterprises.

As a result of the sustainable agriculture training, residents have become aware of the economic potential of these enterprises, the environmental benefits of sustainable practices and the community benefits of maintaining a secure food system. The impact is far reaching, improving nutrition and increasing exercise, while allowing residents to reclaim the positive aspects of rural life and culture

Project Objectives:

Objective# 1
Provide hands on training and technical assistance to youth and beginning farmers within the Taylor Community, focusing on organically grown vegetables and agricultural meats.

Approximately 15 young people ranging from the ages of 12-16 were exposed to and trained in the production, processing and marketing of vegetables utilizing organic methods. This group is called Young Minds in Agriculture (YMIA). This effort was coordinated by The United Christian Community Association (TUCCA) in collaboration with Heifer International (HI) and other sustainable networks.

Training consisted of:
-Calculation of the number of seeds and seedlings needed to plant the areas in question
-Conducting soil tests and applying organic fertilizers
-Seeding plants in flats and storing them in the greenhouse for germination and growth. A greenhouse located on the campus of a nearby high school was used for this effort, and this provided training for students, some of who were from The Taylor Community
-Field planting of seedling plants
-Plant maintenance such as weeding, thinning and mulching
-Installation of plastic mulch and drip irrigation systems
-Construction of trellis for plants such as tomatoes and beans
-Packing and marketing products through outlets in the Birmingham urban area.

TUCCA will transform this objective in an effort to take the training mission to the next level with the Taylor Community. Information listed below will further describe the vision as such:

Goal #1: Utilize TUCCA and other small farms in the community to demonstrate environmentally and economically sustainable agriculture practices.

Objective 1.1: Partner with Heifer International to develop and maintain demonstration site, comprised of the following components:
-organic fruit and vegetable production,
-pastured poultry,
-beef cattle, and
-rabbits

Objective 1.2: Develop resource materials to use in training and other outreach activities.

To facilitate this process, an agreement has been drafted outlining the partnership arrangements between Heifer International and The United Christian Community Association.

Objective #2
Provide a centralized storage facility to accommodate food preservation such as cooling, freezing, collection, distribution and product marketing for community farmers.

Financial Resources from the Innovation Grant could not be used for this objective; this will be completed at a later date by TUCCA. However produce is stored at Down South Foods, a small outlet that distributes farm raised products which have been purchased from local small farmers.

Objective #3
Develop a low input, community supported agricultural (CSA) model for low income and under served communities that encourages the full participation of community residents and can be replicated in other communities.

A survey was designed to collection information for a CSA, and it was determined early on that the residents in question were not interested in the CSA concept. However, they were interested in purchasing farm products at a low cost when products are available and it did not matter to them if it was grown organically. Therefore, this concept might not be applicable to low income minority communities. Continued outreach training and marketing is needed in this area. However, TUCCA will enhance and encourage the concept listed below as an alternative to CSA.

Goal #2
Develop marketing opportunities in local communities and nearby urban centers.

Objective 2.1: Identify and develop market outlets for farm products.

Objective 2.2: Coordinate production and delivery of farm product and meats.

Objective #4
Develop a community farm mentoring process where the youth can produce, process and sell their products to community residents and the general public.

-The training and mentoring process has been centered around the concept of producing vegetables organically, utilizing traditional and plastic culture methods.
-Jerry Spenser (grower/manager with Mt. Laurel Organic Gardens), Alabama Sustainable Agricultural Network, Soul Food organic system, Heifer International, NRCS and Tuskegee University have been very instrumental in providing hands on training to the beginning farmers and youth in the Taylor Community.

TUCCA will expand this objective within the next three to five years to truly demonstrate a community mentoring process through details outlined below:

Goal #3
Develop sustainable agriculture training model

Objective 3.1: Create a whole farm planning model for limited resources farmers, utilizing TUCCA farm as the standard.

Objective 3.2: Develop an e-government training facility in the Taylor Community.

Objective 3.3: Serve as a worksite to train youth in sustainable agriculture

Objective 3.4: Work with Taylor Community members and nearby Heifer International funded groups to provide broad based training in sustainable agriculture production.

This project is off to very good start, and a great deal of time has been spent in setting the project up to ensure that hands on activities would be available for training the youth and adults within the Taylor Community.

Research

Materials and methods:

Training consisted of:
-Calculation of the number of seeds and seedlings needed to plant the areas in question
-Conducting soil tests and applying organic fertilizers
-Seeding plants in flats and storing them in the greenhouse for germination and growth. A greenhouse located on the campus of a nearby high school was used for this effort, and this provided training for students, some of who were from The Taylor Community
-Field planting of seedling plants
-Plant maintenance such as weeding, thinning and mulching
-Installation of plastic mulch and drip irrigation systems
-Construction of trellis for plants such as tomatoes and beans
-Packing and marketing products through outlets in the Birmingham urban area

Participation Summary

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

TUCCA has become a worksite for the Marengo County Youth Investment Program. In this program youth between the ages of 15-20 are assigned to TUCCA for a period of 12 weeks and are trained in Sustainable Agriculture. Also, students receive computer training that is administered by the County Resource Center. These students are employed for 15 hours per week and graduate out of the program in 12 weeks. At this point other eligible students are employed in the program.

The adults were also trained in the above activities and given ownership roles in the production and marketing of organically grown vegetables and farm raised meat. Approximately 10 adults were involved in this training effort. These adults were encouraged to look at these enterprises as potential small business ventures. For the first time the Taylor Community residents were involved in producing organically grown and farm raised meats that are being sold in a market system located in a major urban area. The Soul Food and Mt. Laurel Organic Gardens were involved as such, and they are purchasing vegetables, pasture raise chickens, rabbits, goats and lamb. Turkeys are being produced at this point, and they will be purchased during the month of November and December of 2003.

At this point the following are in place and functioning:

-Organically grown heirloom tomatoes utilizing plastic and drip irrigation. Products from this effort as being packaged and sold through an existing CSA system within the Birmingham urban center.

-Organically grown winter crops such as turnips, baby carrots, lettuce, snap beans and salad greens were planted by the youth and small quantities were sold within an organic marketing system.

– Organically grown peppers and beans are being produced and sold by beginning farmers from the Taylor Community through an existing CSA system to urban markets.

As a result of this project, TUCCA has become a work site for the Marengo County Youth Investment Act Program, involving high school students for a 12 week period that will rotate with a difference set of students every 12 weeks in an effort to gain experience in sustainable agriculture. The TUCCA site would not have been selected if The Taylor Community Supported Agriculture Project was not in place.

Recommendations:

Potential Contributions

Though we are still in the infantile stages of community development, this innovation grant provided TUCCA and the Taylor Community with much needed resources, strengthening the foundations upon which this community will continue to build. Thanks to SARE and the other organizations that have supported us, we have made a solid first step.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.