HABESHA Works Program Expansion and Incubator Development

Final report for LS18-296

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2018: $30,000.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2019
Grant Recipient: HABESHA, Inc.
Region: Southern
State: Georgia
Principal Investigator:
Cashawn Myers
HABESHA, Inc.
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Project Information

Abstract:

Based primarily in metro Atlanta, the HABESHA Works program trains and certifies low to moderate income adults, ages 18-35. Participants in the program become urban growers by developing skills focused on sustainable agriculture practices. HABESHA Works was established in 2011 as an outgrowth of a youth-based gardening program, Sustainable Seeds.

Our goal is to serve 50 participants through the HABESHA Works program, which will, in turn, increase knowledge of sustainable urban agriculture, and increase access to healthy foods. Our approach is to examine the issue of food access in low income communities and improve these conditions by training the community in becoming producers of their own food. Specifically, research has shown that in many communities where health disparities are the greatest, access to high quality, fresh and affordable foods is inadequate. In the community where HABESHA has primarily worked and served for the past nine years, research conducted at the neighborhood health facility, Southside Medical Center, shows 39 percent of adults surveyed from the community self-report having been diagnosed with hypertension.

The HABESHA Works curriculum includes components of in-class lectures, lab sessions, volunteer time at partner urban farms in Georgia and neighboring states, and a final practicum assessment. The course is approximately 200 hours and is focused on principles and practices in sustainable urban agriculture. Trainees are led by subject matter experts; conduct independent research on classroom topics, and volunteer a minimum of 25 hours at local farms. Through this exposure, trainees are introduced to various tracks supporting urban agriculture including production, distribution, consumption, financial planning, marketing and restoration.

As one of the country’s premiere urban agriculture training programs, successful participants receive certification in sustainable urban agriculture. Candidates may also receive continuing education and training for up to 3 years, providing participants with specialized skill development in the previously mentioned areas. A major outcome of this work is aimed at advancing the sustainable agriculture field. Graduates are partnered with training sites that assist students in developing more specialized skill sets. Advanced training opportunities also support participants with professional development opportunities including assistance with business planning, networking and accessing resources in sustainable agriculture.

In six years, HABESHA Works has trained more than 120 growers from around the Atlanta metro area and throughout that state. Support and partnerships have formed across numerous organizations including Georgia Organics, Spelman and Morehouse colleges, Fulton County Health and Human Services, Kaiser Permanente, and more. As a result, this work continues to produce a cadre of growers that are actively engaged in the local food system.

In an effort to increase the capacity of the HABESHA Works program, HABESHA, Inc. is seeking funds to facilitate its 14-week curriculum in addition to expanding advanced training opportunities through the development of an incubator farm. In 2018, HABESHA, Inc. is partnering with two local organizations, Organic High Yield and Nature’s Candy Farms. The partnerships will provide an incubator farm space for advanced trainees to access land resources while establishing a framework for developing their farming business and planning their long-term viability.

The goals of the HABESHA Works program are to increase employment opportunities for minorities while establishing greater access to fresh, healthy food. Both outcomes are achieved through the process of localizing food production. Sustainable agriculture in urban areas still remains a largely untapped resource as a viable method for food production. Despite this lack of consideration, urban farming services as an opportunity to expand agriculture activities and attract new farmers to the industry. Consequently, this process also further advances agricultural sustainability in the following ways:

  1. Increases the number of growers operating within the urban environment who are uniformly trained using a sustainable agriculture curriculum that emphasizes minimal adverse impacts on the environment, financial sustainability and promotes greater community benefits;
  2. Maximized limited availability of land and reduces startup costs for beginning farmers by establishing a supportive network of growers that cooperatively share resources provided through an incubator site;
  3. Encourages local distribution of food to markets through the development of a local food system leading to greater food access in urban communities.
Project Objectives:
  1. Increase minority participation in the urban agriculture industry by providing a high quality training opportunity centered on sustainable practices within the urban landscape.
  2. Develop a cadre of urban growers equipped with financial management skills to support successful farm businesses, which in turn advance local food systems in disadvantaged communities.
  3. Through the creation of an incubator farm, build the capacity of local urban growers to initiate their agricultural business concepts with a supportive network of farm professionals.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Kenneth Swift, Mr. - Producer (Educator)

Research

Involves research:
No
Participation Summary

Education

Educational approach:

Our approach was to examine the issue of food access in low income communities and improve these conditions by training the community in becoming producers of their own food. Specifically, research has shown that in many communities where health disparities are the greatest, access to high quality, fresh and affordable foods is inadequate. In the community where HABESHA has primarily worked and served for the past nine years, research conducted at the neighborhood health facility, Southside Medical Center, shows 39 percent of adults surveyed from the community self-report having been diagnosed with hypertension.

The HABESHA Works curriculum included components of in-class lectures, lab sessions, volunteer time at partner urban farms in Georgia and neighboring states, and a final practicum assessment. The course was approximately 200 hours long, and is focused on principles and practices in sustainable urban agriculture. Trainees were led by subject matter experts; conduct independent research on classroom topics, and volunteer an additional minimum of 40 hours at local farms. Through this exposure, trainees are introduced to various tracks supporting urban agriculture including production, distribution, consumption, financial planning, marketing and restoration.

Educational & Outreach Activities

10 Consultations
5 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
11 Journal articles
14 On-farm demonstrations
1 Online trainings
11 Published press articles, newsletters
7 Tours
5 Webinars / talks / presentations
30 Workshop field days

Participation Summary

35 Farmers
15 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

Participants had several opportunities to be a part of and witness outreach and professional development.  Participants were involved with several conferences and seminars including:  Georgia Organic Conference, SSAWG Conference, and the Aglanta Conference.  Presentations were made by HABESHA Works alum and HABESHA leadership staff at all of these conferences.  This was valuable for the trainees to share and apply what they had been learning.  Additionally, participants were involved in 3 job/career fairs around green infrastructure/urban agriculture during the duration of this grant.

Learning Outcomes

35 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key changes:
  • The fundamentals of urban agriculture from seed to table.

  • The available resources to growers who want to scale.

  • The vast network of farmers/growers in the metro Atlanta/Southeast region

  • How to maximize production on small urban spaces

  • How to access financial resources to support farming enterprises.

Project Outcomes

33 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
2 Grants received that built upon this project
5 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

One distinction from other Research and Education programs is that the HABESHA Works program emphasized the use of sustainable agriculture within the urban environment. This approach sought to advance urban agriculture strategies. Therefore, the program largely explored ways to apply traditionally large-scale techniques within a condensed area and can benefit greatly by accessing the resources provided through SARE. The program utilized curriculum which emphasizes sustainable business development, soil health, renewable energy sources, crop rotation and cover crops, organic pest management, and local food systems.

The goal of the HABESHA Works program was to increase employment opportunities for minorities while establishing greater access to fresh, healthy food. Both outcomes are achieved through the process of localizing food production. Sustainable agriculture in urban areas still remains a largely untapped resource as a viable method for food production. Despite this lack of consideration, urban farming serves as an opportunity to expand agriculture activities and attract new farmers to the industry. Consequently, our program further advanced agricultural sustainability in the following ways:

1. Increased minority participation in the urban agriculture industry by providing a high-quality training opportunity centered on sustainable practices within the urban landscape. This included the continuation of the 14-week hands-on training course with an expanded continuing education component, largely focused on the implementation of a farm incubator. In this phase of the program, the organization assisted 30 new farmers. In partnership with Organic High Yield, participating farmers were provided with 1-acre plots to assist in the startup of a new farm business.

2. Developed a cadre of urban growers equipped with financial management skills to support successful farm businesses, which in turn advance local food systems in disadvantaged communities. Nature’s Candy Farm was the partnering organization offering financial management training and will provide coaching for new farmers during the first year of their five year tenure. Farmers received continuing education to provide technical support toward business planning, marketing, product development, and researching access to financial aid that will allow participating growers to expand their businesses. Varying levels of assistance will be provided for the duration of a farmer’s participation (up to five years).

3. Through the creation of an incubator farm, built the capacity of local urban growers to initiate their agricultural business concepts within a supportive network of farm professionals. During their tenure, farmers also partnered with organization affiliated with the HABESHA Works program. This includes local urban farmers such as Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture, Metro Atlanta Urban Farms, Gilliam Farms and others. Farming professionals assisted in increasing new farmers knowledge of sustainable practices and offered areas of specialized training.

Recommendations:

I would suggest extending the grant to more than one year, as some of the training program ideas that we wanted to introduce will take more than a year of training.

 

1. Increased the number of growers operating within the urban environment who are uniformly trained using a sustainable agriculture curriculum that emphasizes minimal adverse impacts on the environment, financial sustainability and promotes greater community benefit;

2. Maximized limited availability of land and reduces startup costs for beginning farmers by establishing a supportive network of growers that cooperatively share resources provided through an incubator site; and

3. Encouraged local distribution of food to markets through the development of a local food system leading to greater food access in urban communities.

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.