It has been more than ten years since we helped plant the seeds of what is now a burgeoning local foods movement. In the summer of 2001, a lot at the corner of Douglass and Hamilton streets became the Orange Mound Community Garden. It was all the idea of Mrs. Alcine Arnett, a lifelong Orange Mound resident and Board member of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center. From that original plot came the GrowMemphis Urban Garden program. It was officially launched in 2007 as a collaborative effort of the Center and three low-income neighborhoods across the city. It was all made possible by the vision of community residents and the financial support of the Assisi Foundation, Heifer Project International and Grace St. Lukes Church.
This idea that began in three communities in 2007 quickly sprouted gardens in a dozen neighborhoods by 2009 and over two dozen projects today. The organization was also fortunate to retain Josephine Alexander as its coordinator in 2009. She not only expanded the resources available to gardens considerably, but she launched important initiatives including: the Youth Market in the Mound, and the Shelby County Food Policy Working Group.
As the popularity of GrowMemphis grew we made the hard decision a few years ago to begin the process to transition it into its own organization. We felt its rapid growth and future potential would best benefit the community if it developed as its own entity. Not to say that we will not always support the work and mission of GrowMemphis, it is after all something that we helped shape these past four years. But we also know that you have to give things room to grow, literally and figuratively. GrowMemphis has already grown to prominence in the local foods movement, and we are excited about its future possibilities.
The time for us to officially part ways will come at the end of this year. This is also unfortunately when Josephine leaves both organizations to become a full time farmer with her husband Randy. We are happy for her though and know that she will still be contributing to our work, just in a different way, by feeding it. This means that you will need to watch the news in the coming days as GrowMemphis makes the announcement of their next/first Executive Director.
We wish GrowMemphis the best as it moves forward in tackling food insecurity, local foods and healthy eating. We also wish Josephine the best and urge everyone to support her newest calling, Tubby Creek Farms. Also please make sure to connect with GrowMemphis through its new website, growmemphis.org.