Everyone has had the experience – driving by something that looks interesting and wondering, “What is that”? Usually you just keep going but once in a while the place looks so inviting that you think, “I’m going to stop”! Such is how HEAD Corporation was introduced to the Berea Urban Farm.
Berea Urban Farm is a program of Sustainable Berea, Inc., a non-profit established in 2006. Founded by Dr. Richard Olson, a professor at Berea College in Environmental Studies, Agriculture & Natural Resources and by his wife, Cheyenne Olson who retired in 2013 from Berea College as Gifts Officer, the organization is managed by an 11-member board.
Sustainable Berea is a member organization consisting of approximately 300 members who pay $30 annually. These membership dues are matched annually up to the first $2,000 by a benefactor. In addition, the organization has several local corporate and individual donors with annual commitments. Sustainable Berea also sponsors an 11-event lecture series; they host the Celebrate the Harvest Festival with approximately 25 booths; they have their own mini-grant program distributing $2,000 annually; host an annual fundraiser sponsored by 15+ corporate and 50+ individual sponsors that installed 187 raised gardens in the community last year; they sponsor the annual Berea Solar Tour; and they sell rain barrels. It’s a busy place.
Berea Urban Farm was established in 2013 to produce high quality food for local residents and members of Sustainable Berea in a manner that restores the land, increases food security, improves health and provides a neighborhood gathering place. The farm is located on a 1.4-acre tract approximately two blocks from Berea College. Berea Urban Farm has a full-time farm manager who works about 9-months out of the year. They also utilize interns and AmeriCorps members.
On the site, Berea Urban Farm has numerous beds and raised gardens, a large high tunnel which catches rain water for irrigation, bee hives, a neighborhood meeting area, two storage buildings constructed by Berea College classes and six garden sites for community members.
The HEAD loan project is partial financing of a new 40’x15’ greenhouse at the site. It is a hard walled/roof greenhouse that is environmentally controlled. The greenhouse will allow Berea Urban Farm to grow product year-round, expand into more varieties and get an earlier start on the growing season.
A lesson learned. If a place looks interesting and inviting, it’s a good idea to stop!