The Memphis Tilth, GrowMemphis Community Garden Program helps communities build gardens to improve access to locally grown food in their neighborhoods.
We envision a community with full access to affordable, fresh, locally, and sustainably grown food. Everyone can grow their own food, share knowledge of sustainable growing practices, support urban and rural farmers, and cultivate community. We value environmental sustainability, a commitment to underserved populations, blight reduction and beautification, community collaboration and development, empowerment and self-reliance.
What we’ve accomplished
GrowMemphis helps communities build gardens to improve access to locally grown food in their neighborhoods through a growing network of more than 55 gardens in 15 zip codes in the City of Memphis, envisioning neighborhoods with full access to affordable, fresh, locally, and sustainably grown food.
Every year, GrowMemphis provides start-up funding and training to neighborhood residents who wish to create and sustain gardens. These gardens eliminate blighted property, produce fresh and healthy food, and provide opportunities for community building. Each garden is as unique as the neighborhood in which it is found. GrowMemphis’ goal is to help new gardeners identify their most important needs and to provide the training and resources to help gardeners realize their vision.
GrowMemphis partnered with the Memphis Public Library Benjamin L. Hooks Branch to create the GrowMemphis Seed Library.
The GrowMemphis Seed Library
Preserve vegetable, herb, and flower plant seeds best suited for the Mid-South
Allow community members to check out seeds for free, then turn in saved seeds at the end of the season
Once you check out seeds you are a member
Provide resources on savings seeds, starting plants from seeds, and planting calendars
In 2001, Alcine Arnett, a member of the Board of Directors of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, proposed to start a community garden in the Orange Mound neighborhood where she lived. Ms. Arnett was concerned by the growing rift between neighborhood youth and senior citizens. Young people had little respect for their elders, and seniors lived in increasing fear of young people. The generations had become estranged. Ms. Arnett saw the garden as a way to reconnect the youth and seniors by capitalizing on the experience and gardening know-how of the older generation, and the energy and enthusiasm of the younger generation.
Through the the Orange Mound Community Garden, the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center was able to demonstrate the transformative power that urban and community gardening can have for neighborhoods. They began looking for ways to replicate the successes of the Orange Mound Community Garden on a greater scale.
GrowMemphis was founded as a project of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center in 2007 with community gardening projects in Hollywood-Springdale and South Memphis joining the one in Orange Mound. These organic community gardens would provide a source of healthy food in neighborhoods, turning vacant lots into thriving centers of community. In 2012 The Food Advisory Council for Memphis and Shelby County was formalized and continues to operate under the leadership of GrowMemphis.
Since then, GrowMemphis has expanded by leaps and bounds to include new partner garden projects throughout Memphis, and currently has 52 member garden projects. While expanding the number of community gardens, GrowMemphis was also expanding in scope. In early 2010, GrowMemphis began convening a working group for the formation of a food policy council for Memphis and Shelby County. In January 2012, due to increased demand for community gardens as well as a need to expand food policy initiatives, GrowMemphis became an independent non-profit.
In June 2016, GrowMemphis officially dissolved as a nonprofit to become a program of the larger food systems nonprofit, Memphis Tilth. All current GrowMemphis staff, gardens, and program initiatives remain and continue to grow under Memphis Tilth.
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 will be located at multiple AOVS locations, with the 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 has hired Chris Peterson as the new 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.
In support of this mission, Memphis Tilth will work 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 will be offered so that veterans can learn how to cook all the food grown, with the opportunity to also become ServSafe certified by Memphis Tilth.
To learn more about Alpha Omega Veterans Services, please visit alphaomegaveterans.org.