Alpha Omega Veterans Services Urban Farm and Garden
Memphis Tilth holds a three-year contract, beginning January 2018, to build an urban farm and garden project with Alpha Omega Veterans Services (AOVS). The project is located at multiple AOVS locations, with the 1.5 acre urban farm and garden located at the AOVS Depot, a veterans housing facility in South Memphis. The goal of this project is to increase healthy fruits and vegetables to veteran residents at AOVS facilities, engage AOVS veterans, staff, and volunteers in produce production and marketing, teach AOVS veterans how to grow food and run an urban farm, and develop an AOVS value-added product to sell. Memphis Tilth hired Chris Peterson as the farm manager for the project. Chris joins Memphis Tilth from Loch Holland Farm in Saulsbury, Tennessee. Before starting Loch Holland Farm, Chris was the Executive Director of GrowMemphis, which is now a program of Memphis Tilth.
Alpha Omega Veterans Services is based in Memphis, Tennessee with the mission to provide displaced and homeless veterans with the social services needed to totally reintegrate them back into society. This includes food, shelter, clothing, referrals for training in vocational, educational and job placement goals, community service referrals, individual and group counseling and other such services and facilities designed to meet their physical, social and psychological needs and to promote their health, security, happiness and usefulness in society. 150 veterans are housed at any given time at 6 different housing locations in Memphis.
In support of this mission, Memphis Tilth works strategically with AOVS to use the farm and garden as an education and therapeutic resource to connect veterans to the land, and help them create market opportunities for growing and selling produce and value-added products. Community kitchen classes are offered so that veterans can learn how to cook all the food grown, with the opportunity to also become ServSafe certified by Memphis Tilth.
In 2018, the Memphis Tilth AOVS Urban Farm team transformed the empty 1.5 acre plot into a fully functioning urban farm with in ground vegetables, 6 raised beds, chickens, and bees. Over 3,100 pounds of produce were distributed to AOVS clients and the Food Recovery Network, which equals to $10,000.00 in value. Some of the produce is sold at the Cooper Young Community Farmers Market, giving veterans the opportunity to learn vocational skills in agriculture sales. In addition, 841 pounds of produce was composted which equals to 1,597.88 pounds of potential carbon emissions captured, the Equivalent of 65 days of average household electricity use!
To learn more about Alpha Omega Veterans Services, please visit alphaomegaveterans.org.
"It makes you feel like ... you're doing something right. You're doing something good. And this really is my family. This is the family that I have. The people here in this garden, the staff. Here you belong. Here I belong. This is the place that I belong. I haven’t had a place to belong since I was a kid.“
“... on a clear night… all you can hear is me walking and the rooster. It’s almost like a different world sometimes at night and it’s just so calming. Sometimes, I like to sit down, and I’ll have a little light and just read or something. I just don’t know how to describe it, but it really just feels very comfortable and calming. I just, I just love it at night. You know, with the moonlight shining. It’s just so peaceful out there. And it’s just nice to be close to nature like this.
“I don’t usually feel depressed or anything anymore. It’s hard to out here with all of this.”
“[The skills and knowledge gained from the class have helped me] reconsider the ways I buy and consume food…it’s valuable information”