Wes Riddle and Mary Phillips, directors of The Memphis Urban Farm School, explained the startup to customers Tuesday at Whole Foods.
You need groceries before buckling down for today’s winter weather, right? Then head straight for Whole Foods Market where 5 percent of your purchases will be donated to The Memphis Urban Farm School, an innovative startup to connect food entrepreneurs with business and agricultural training.
The program will provide low-cost classes to food entrepreneurs, utilize blighted or vacant land for food production, and connect new farmers to local retail markets, explained Mary Phillips, the project’s co-director along with attorney Wes Riddle.
“Basically, we want to help make local food accessible and affordable to more and more people,” said Phillips, an early advocate for the city's local food movement and the farm manager of Roots Memphis.
“We realized that the local food economy here had all these missing pieces,” Riddle said, explaining the connection between agriculture education, business training and community partnerships.
For instance, if a restaurant needs tomatoes and lettuce, then the school’s students will grow the produce that the restaurant needs, Phillips explained. “It’s all part of building a strong and more viable local food economy,” Phillips said.
The Memphis Urban Farm School is headquartered at First Congregational Church in Cooper-Young, and the curriculum and classroom facilities are in place. School organizers are now focusing on raising money through grants, gifts and programs such as Tuesday’s fund-raiser at Whole Foods.
Whole Foods Market, 5022 Poplar Ave. (901-685-2293)