The FASHA team meets Knowledge Academies and Ada’s Rules teams!

Team FASHA continues to work on the urban farm initiative. We cannot wait to break ground and to get this project up and running. Earlier this month, we met with Knowledge Academies and Ada’s Rules author Alice Randall, Katie Sulkowski (Ada’s Rules), and Trevor Henderson (NashVitality). We discussed possible partnerships, which ranged from creating a green campus, to book clubs, to fitness activities all in an effort to make health a priority for our communities in the Nashville area.  Beyond exploring ways to collaborate, we learned the many benefits of sweet potatoes. It turns out that sweet potatoes have a low glycemic index, contain vitamin A and fiber, and can be stored away for about three months! Who knew?! Stay tuned to our blog to hear more about our efforts towards building self-sustaining communities through urban farming!

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We’ve missed Spring Planting

But we are on for fall. Still planning, organizing, researching, and finding.

Colleen’s Story, and How She Joined Us on Our Journey

One day, we went out flyering (not a word, we know), as we’re prone to do, to keep the community informed on our happenings. We left flyers all over the place including a local YMCA. The flyer asked if anyone out there was interested in joining our urban farm, growing their own vegetables, and being part of an urban agriculture movement in the community. If they were, the flyer said, they were invited to our meeting to learn more.

Among the people who responded to our call was Colleen (she encountered the flyer at the local YMCA). She came to our meeting where we discussed the project’s plans, and got feedback on needs and direction. Colleen was hooked from the very beginning, giving feedback, and asking for ways to become involved in every part of the process. She’s not only helped us in our fundraising endeavors, management and organization of various aspects of the project, but she’s volunteered her services as a designer to help put a plan together for our vision. She didn’t design that first flyer that reeled her in, but she’s designed our flyers and pamphlets ever since!

Over the course of our journey, we’ve gotten to know her personal story. She is a local business owner, at Echo Design, she is a mother, she is married to a local musician (very Nashville), and she loves the idea of a farm in the community!  We are excited to share with you the story of her family, and her interest in our urban farm project. We asked her some questions, and below are her answers.

Can you give us your family background?

I was born and raised in St. Louis, Mo. I have one brother name Brian who is 2 years older than I. My parents also were born and raised in St. Louis, MO. So, needless to say, we’re your typical mid-western family. If you grow up in MO, you don’t leave MO. The decision for me to go away to college was not totally accepted at first. However, eventually my family was completely on board and extremely supportive as they knew I always have been a little “out of the box”.

I went to Anderson University in Anderson IN. I met my husband there and we got married a month after graduation in 2004. We moved to Nashville because my husband is a musician and I could go anywhere to do graphic design. I’ve now worked in graphic design for about a decade but became a full time stay at home mom two years ago when my son was born: Oliver William Boyle. I continue to work part time from home freelancing as a graphic designer.

Colleen’s Family: Chris, Oliver, and Collen.

How do you spend your free time?

I love to thrift shop, antique, garage sale, and peruse flea markets. I don’t just love it, I’m actually totally obsessed with it. Although, since I’m not a hoarder, I finally had to come up with a reason to keep going in to these places. Idea, I’ll sell vintage baby clothes! 6 months ago I started selling on etsy.com. My store is called Schatzi Vintage after my grandma and it gives me something to “collect” now. After doing this for 6 months, turns out I’m not to keen on the business side of things. I’d rather be a buyer instead of doing the tedious tasks of photographing, measuring, shipping, etc. Basically, this will probably always remain a hobby since I’m lazy at posting. I did have a booth at the flea market last month to clear out some of my inventory. It was fun, but I’d need to invest in a lot more inventory if I did it again. Which would be fine with me because it would mean I would have more reasons to shop!

I’ve also gotten obsessed with the YMCA. It’s my home away from home now. It’s my “me time” as most women say. I get a break from being mom, and it’s a way to work off all the extra food that I eat because I don’t want to waste what my son won’t finish! I guess you could say, I’m your typical girl. Shopping and working out. Sounds pretty lame now that I write it. Ha! Hopefully we get the garden going soon so I can acquire a more dignified hobby!

Can you talk to us about why our urban farm initiative is appealing to you?

Let me start by saying why we moved to the neighborhood. That will help answer, why the urban farm initiative is appealing. Originally when we moved to the Paragon Mills neighborhood we were interested in living in a multi cultural neighborhood. We wanted to gain community with people who weren’t just like us: young, white, etc) But, I guess naturally, the goal of community has proven to be a bit more difficult than expected. We were robbed twice in the first three years we have lived here. We have also had several other instances that made us feel violated and vulnerable. This, unfortunately, has made us put our guard up and become quite bitter; the opposite of why we felt led to this neighborhood. Instead of building bridges we’ve just kept to ourselves and tried to plan a time for when we could move. When I heard about the urban farm initiative, I was excited to hear that there were others in this neighborhood that wanted to make a positive difference. It is a great community builder and a positive step for a struggling neighborhood. When I learned more about the project, it was a faith builder for me as I felt God bringing redemption in his purpose for bringing us to this neighborhood by giving us a way to break down the walls we’ve built.

What are some of the things you hope to gain out of the experience?

Of course the given: gardening experience, community involvement, and a way to get to know those that live close. I also think it will be a fun way to teach our son about agriculture and being a part of a group that has a positive goal.

What are some changes you hope to see in the neighborhood as a result of the gardening initiative?

 Lots of things! Community involvement, a focus on the importance of fresh, natural foods in our diet, an outlet for people who don’t have community (refugees, retired folks, stay at home moms, the homeless, etc) to come and be a part of something fun. I think this kind of goal can build local pride, which is what we need! It would also just be great for the Paragon Mills area to have something new and alive, active and growing. Something that’s beautiful and created by us!

What would you like to communicate to readers of this blog who would like to get involved in the initiative?

Come teach us or learn with us! We need lots of people to make this happen. If you have any desire at all to be a part, please join forces with us to get it up and running!

Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

If you don’t want to be a part of the urban farm, would you at least consider giving financially to help us support it? Much thanks in advance!

The Dream: Our Urban Farm Initiative

When we first embarked on our Urban Farm journey, we had no idea what kind of adventure it would be. We were full of ideas, and imbued with passion. A year later, we have met countless amazing people, have access to five acres of land from the Metro Nashville Government, and are slowly cultivating a community around our farm. We are in our first year, and we have a long way to go. We’ve learned innumerable lessons, and are still learning a lot about urban agriculture.

We are sisters. We survived the Rwandan Genocide together, and are working on this massive project together. We moved to the United States, and settled in Nashville together as young kids. Our first home was in an urban neighborhood, in one of Nashville’s food deserts. Our settlement in Nashville brought our many firsts. Coming from tropical weather, we experienced our first snow in Nashville, had our first apple pie in Nashville, built our first gingerbread houses in Nashville, and made our first tie-dye shirts in Nashville. We were truly blessed to have Nashville as our new home.

Through the years, with our small non-profit, FASHA, we have helped refugees and immigrants living in Nashville in various capacities. We have fund raised and provided aid and resources to victims of international disasters around the world, including the earthquake in Haiti, and the recent drought in Somalia, the Horn of Africa. After going to separate colleges out of state, we have resettled back to Nashville.

We have since sought ways to expand our reach within the international community in Nashville, while connecting with the local Nashville community.  Inspired by our friends and trusted advisers, we set out to found an ambitious and idealistic plan. We discussed issues of food security, the lack of access to fresh produce in urban setting, and the impeding global food shortage in 50 years. Equipped with a desire to give back, the idea for our urban farm was born.

We want to create a farm that provides healthy, locally grown, organic food, while providing space for outdoor activities for the community. We seek to employ urban farming methods including hydroponics growing towers among others. Through the venture, we plan to bring together Nashville’s diverse local and international communities in a productive and community building manner. Essentially, we intend to grow a garden and grow community.

Our dream is to cultivate and mentor a community of entrepreneurs in urban agriculture. We will provide classes and workshops to the farmers and the greater community. Our focus ranges from food, nutrition, food preparation, and food health in general. We envision providing training on business planning, management, and marketing. We are striving to give more to our urban farm participants. We want them to not only have access to fresh and locally grown produce, but to gain skills, and potentially use those skills to expand and earn a little extra income from their own urban farming ventures.

We have made some progress towards our dream. Through the Metro Nashville Mayor’s Office, and Metro Water, we acquired land to pursue our urban farm. The property is located in the Paragon Mills area, a neglected yet abundantly diverse neighborhood in South Nashville. The land is in a flood zone, and sits unoccupied. In 2008, Mayor Karl Dean set a goal of making Nashville “the greenest city in the Southeast”. And in recent years, his office embarked on a quest to finding productive use of the flood properties. Our urban farm happens to be one of the first few pilot projects used as a trial for farming and gardening projects on these flood-recovered properties. While the flood devastated Nashville communities, our plan is to use such flooded land to bring people together.

We are still a long way from our cherished dream. So far, we are building a diverse community around the project. We have met a lot of amazing people in Nashville’s Urban Agriculture, and extremely supportive community members. Our journey continues as we work on getting the farm off the ground. We continue to encounter plenty of obstacles but remain optimistic. We invite you to remain with us on this thrilling adventure.