Urban farm promotes sustainability, new business opportunity

Project transforms blighted properties
Posted at 7:26 PM, Jul 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-07 19:26:00-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Hunger is a major issue in the Big Bend, made worse by the pandemic. In 2020 alone, the Second Harvest of the Big Bend delivered more than 15 million pounds of food in 11 counties.

Now, new partnerships in Tallahassee are growing new solutions to meet the need for healthy food. They are providing new opportunities to urban farmers while helping communities in the need the most, rebound.

“My great, great grandfather, right here in Tallahassee, sold corn and peanuts to the USDA,” shared Donna Cotterell.

She is a recent graduate of the City Farm TLH Urban Farming and Entrepreneurship Training program. She applied with dozens of others from across the city.

“Out of those 45, there were 15 selected,” Cotterell explained. “I was grateful to be one of those 15.”

That group harvested new skills and knowledge from a plot of land on Kissimmee Street this past spring.

Adam Jacobs is sustainability and resiliency manager for Tallahassee. He said the project was started to take on, “food insecurity, but also provide an entrepreneurial opportunity for local residents.”

The goal is to take more vacant lots around the city and transform them into gardens adding to sustainability going forward.

“We could potentially lease out the vacant parcels to recent program graduates so they could look at starting their own urban farm,” Jacob explained.

Much of Tallahassee’s southside is located in a food desert, where fresh, healthy food is not readily available. The city partnered with Tallahassee Community College’s Wakulla Environmental Institute and Florida A&M University’s Small Business Development Center to get it done.

“We’ve placed laser focus on providing in-depth assistance to minority and women-owned businesses,” added Keith Bowers. He is regional director for the Small Business Development Center at FAMU. “I think it’s perfect timing for the city farm initiative,” Bowers added.

Bowers also explained minority business owners have a harder time getting started. “According to statistics, they face twice the challenge as majority business owners”

This project is designed to grow those business owners into success. Cotterell plans on using what she learned to better the neighborhood. “I want to spread it to the community and help other people here on the southside create their own urban farms,” she concluded.

The city will host a second training beginning in August. Instruction will be online classes and hands-on demonstrations.