With some land and a plan, Lisa Moore, CEO and President of Girls Incorporated of Memphis
, and recently hired Youth Farm Manager Miles Tamboli are about to break ground for the Girls Inc. Youth Farm. The 9.5 acre plot in Frayser is scheduled to begin shaping up as a farm this week, weather permitting.
Girls Inc. is sowing the seeds of a living-wage experiential employment opportunity for young social entrepreneurs. With the launch of the Girls Inc. Youth Farm, the organization is launching a new program to teach high school girls the skills necessary to start and run their own businesses.
“The Girls Inc Youth Farm is indeed an urban farm. But, digging deeper, it is a social entrepreneurship incubator built on the platform of growing food,” explained Tamboli.
Moore and Tamboli started working on the youth farm concept last summer. It is coming to fruition just in time for the planting season this spring. For the inaugural year of the farm, Tamboli will handle the tilling and planting chores. Meanwhile, girls who are participants in the Girls Inc. program will begin learning job skills, such as developing a resume and securing references, in order to interview for one of the five spots in the first farm crew. Those chosen for the program will begin working part-time in June. By that time there will be food to harvest from 60 varieties of fruits and vegetables planned for the farm.
“The youth farm will be a year-round program. Farm chores for income will include tilling, weeding, harvesting, processing and packing of produce. During the school year, the work will be part-time and focus on social entrepreneur engagement, such as workshops led by local experts, like Master Gardeners. In January, we will expand our public outreach through schools and churches to select the second farm crew next year. That crew will engage in greenhouse work, as well as planting seeds in the ground,” said Tamboli.
In addition to being paid to grow food, the girls will design a stand for use at the Memphis Farmers Market
, and develop an outreach program and a marketing plan. Also, they will conduct community workshops and activities, some at the farm and some downtown at the Memphis Farmers Market.
Also, through workshops led by Tamboli, the girls will learn the business side of farming. The curriculum is being developed with input from local restaurateurs, local farmers, and female business leaders. The goal of the program is in line with the non-profit's overall mission: to give the girls the tools to be strong, smart, and bold leaders.
The leadership incubation component will include “Volunteer Days." The farm crews will go out in the community to help elementary schools build and maintain a garden. There will also be free workshops at the farm where the public can learn how to grow their own food at home. Ultimately, the farm crews will host a weekly on-site farmers market to distribute its fresh produce to local residents with a goal of selling 60 to 80 percent of the produce in Frayser through local markets. They will also sell their produce to local restaurants.
Moore said, “This concept is based on giving these girls a chance to prepare themselves for their roles in the future. Learning basic employee standards, following a work schedule, is all practice for the professional world. We will also offer workshops to teach financial literacy as a life skill. With funding from the Assisi Foundation
, we were able to buy the land. And with money received from a matching grant from an anonymous donor, Girls Inc. is able to provide the seed money for the youth farm. By the year 2020, we anticipate that 15 to 20 girls will be enrolled in this program and that the farm will be financially self-sustaining through the sales of its produce.”
After graduation from high school, the hope is that program participants will continue their formal education or go into a famers apprenticeship program, where they will learn a more in-depth approach to farming.
“We want our farm crews to use the skills, tools and connections that they have developed through the program at Girls Inc. to develop their own entrepreneurial paths. We will provide the tools to help them start and manage their own businesses,” Tamboli said.
Girls Inc. Youth Farm is just one of the quality programs offered by the organization. Follow the progress of the farm on the Girls Inc. Youth Farm page on Facebook
. For more information, call (901) 596-8571.