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Growing a solution for hunger, Urban Farm planning for a bountiful harvest this year at Danville food pantry
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Growing a solution for hunger, Urban Farm planning for a bountiful harvest this year at Danville food pantry

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The ground is ready, the plants are waiting and once all danger of frost is past, the Urban Farm at God’s Storehouse will start growing fresh produce.

The project, which began in 2017, is now under the careful eye of Stephanie Adkins, Urban Farm manager. She began in September after the board of God’s Storehouse, a local nonprofit food pantry, approved her part-time position.

Looking out over the almost acre of land of the Urban Farm, Adkins sees a vision of what the farm can accomplish.

“Let’s use what God gave us and be part of the solution,” said Adkins, who grew up on a farm in Pittsylvania County.

Although her job is part-time, she said she is at the farm at all hours, especially early in the morning and sometimes in the evening.

“I’m here to do what needs to be done,” she said.

Adkins plans to build upon the work of AmeriCorps VISTA — Volunteers in Service to America — workers who have previously worked to turn the land into a fully sustainable farm.

“Last year we grew and donated 800 pounds of food to the God’s Storehouse customers, and this year we plan on 1,000 pounds with the summer and fall crops,” she said.

Along the way, she also plans on providing educational opportunities for at-risk youth.

“I expect to reach out to the youth in the community and teach them individually how to live off the land and create sustainable food sources,” she said.

She plans on partnering with Pittsylvania County farmers to give the youth jobs and “opportunities to become productive adults.”

Goals of the farm

Karen Harris, executive director of God’s Storehouse, said there are four main goals of the Urban Farm:

To provide more and diverse opportunities to access fresh foods,

To create and establish a volunteer base of individuals and groups,

To equip community members with the knowledge and ability to grow their own food within a program year by hosting workshops and workdays and connecting people to local resources and

To offer opportunities for people to interact while learning and connecting with the goals and values of the Urban Farm.

Adkins plans on planting a variety of vegetables the week after Mother’s Day, including a variety of peppers, okra, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and white and sweet potatoes.

Between 1,000 and 1,500 plants will be put in the ground to fill up almost 8,000 square feet of the lots.

Current projects

Several concurrent projects are now transforming the lot that is next to God’s Storehouse on Memorial Drive.

A 35-by-32-foot greenhouse was donated by W.W. Moore Jr. Juvenile Detention Center and is being set up.

“We will use it for education, propagating cuttings from plants to seed and starting vegetable seeds in the winter,” Adkins said. “The goal is to use it to keep the cycle of sustainability going and to reduce costs.”

Adkins also is planning an Enchanted Garden in one corner of the lot that will feature fairy garden elements, such as a village of flowers and statues and a blue bathtub used as a water effect.

In January, Daniel Builders awarded the Urban Farm a $5,000 grant for a shelter on the lot and then built it.

J & M Truck Services recently donated 25 cedar boxes that will be repurposed to use for composting and planting potatoes and herbs.

A farmer’s market will begin at the lot on Wednesdays beginning on June 9.

“It is hosted with WIC and the Southern Area Agency on Aging, and those vouchers will be accepted,” Harris said. “We have two farmers for sure who are bringing produce so far. Anyone can come and buy.”

Many other community businesses and organizations have donated supplies or given generous discounts, according to Harris, who said the organization is grateful.

Sean Carlsen from Wise-Hundley Electric was on hand on a sunny morning last week. Wise-Hundley will be hooking up the electricity for the greenhouse.

Carlsen comes from a farming background and says farming skills are important for youth to know.

“It gives the kids something to do other than get into trouble,” he said. “They can learn responsibility through growing things, and that’s the kind of workers we are looking for.”

Volunteers are needed for the Urban Farm and can sign up at godsstorehouse.org. Donations of money are always welcome, especially since the farm is trying to raise money to buy a $17,000 tractor at this time.

Speaking of the coming days of the farm, Adkins said, “It’s going to be so amazing.”

Elzey is a freelance writer for the Register & Bee. She can be reached at susanelzey@yahoo.com or 434-791-7991.

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