Sustainability / Environment / Agriculture: Memphis Urban Farm School

Memphis Urban Farm School

About Memphis Urban Farm School

The Memphis Urban Farm School is a fiscally-sponsored project through GrowMemphis that creates successful urban agriculture entrepreneurs through an education and incubation process that provides students with business and agricultural skills training, assists them in business plan development, and connects them with land, financing, and markets.

The mission of the farm school is to create a resilient and sustainable Memphis food economy from the ground up by:

-providing low-cost alternative education to aspiring food entrepreneurs

-eliminating barriers to entry to commercial urban farming

-utilizing vacant and blighted land for food production

-facilitating access to startup capital, and

-expanding the local food market by connecting producers to buyers.

The Farm School comprises four functions: Education, Land, Finance, and Market Connectivity. It administers a curriculum that equips students with the knowledge and skills necessary to start and successfully manage a sustainable commercial urban farm. The school also administers the research and development of a database of the best-suited parcels in the region for small-scale sustainable agriculture and works with the necessary organizations and government to secure them for graduates. To facilitate access to startup capital, the Farm School has forged partnerships with local lenders and investors to create an ecosystem of startup investment for graduates and local food entrepreneurs. Finally, the Farm School is partnering with many other non-profits to develop a local food hub of local food buyers and markets, including anchor institutions, restaurants, farmer’s markets, and individual households, to connect locally-grown produce to end buyers in a commercially accessible manner.

Desired Skills for Fellow

Because the Farm School is a new project, Fellows need to be flexible to the ever-changing needs of an emerging organization. The Farm School staff expects Fellows to be punctual and professional, and able to meet the wide variety of demands that this Fellowship would entail. This Fellowship offers equal parts office work and field work, so Fellows must be able to function in professional office and outdoor labor situations.

Because we employ interns with strong work ethic and high level of motivation, current interns with the Farm School enjoy a large amount of creative freedom in their work. Farm School staff believe that work should be tailored to the strengths of employees, so we hire for people, not positions. There is a very wide variety of work that can be done and fortunately for Fellows, this means that self-starters are able to find their preferred niche in the program and develop it to the best of their abilities.

Fellow Responsibilities

Projects that Fellows will work on include but are not limited to:

Urban Farm Land Database: This project involves working with Farm School staff, representatives from the UT Agricultural Extension Agency, and the Mid-South Regional Greenprint Consortium to survey properties currently listed in the Shelby County Land Bank and determine suitability for agricultural purposes.

Memphis and Shelby County Food Audit: Interns will assist staff in conducting research to determine existing demand for local food, potential demand for local food, best practices for local purchasing policies, and potential supply from urban agricultural land parcels.

Memphis Urban Farm School Outdoor Classroom and Test Plot Garden: Interns will assist in the construction of an outdoor classroom and test plot research garden at Roots Memphis.

Urban Agriculture Resource Manual: Under the guidance of Farm School staff, Fellows will compile a resource manual for Farm School students that includes local resources and best practices in the fields of urban agriculture, small business resources, and micro-financing.

Grant Research and Funding Appeals: Interns will research and apply for relevant grants to financially support the work of the Memphis Urban Farm School. Interns may also assist in the planning and implementation of fundraising events and appeals.

For more information on the Memphis Urban Farm School, visit their website.