On the south side of the CSX tracks in downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia, sits a 3.5 acre green space saved from becoming a Seven Eleven by a group called Downtown Greens.
Two part-time staff members run the nonprofit, which promotes environmental care by maintaining a landscaped park-style space for the community, using sustainable gardening methods, teaching children through a weekly garden club, and raising bees with the Urban Bees program.
The nonprofit owns the land and the home on it, which serves as the office and meeting room. Two annual fundraisers raise the US$4,000 that covers the current annual operating budget. But that’s not enough money to support the enthusiasm of Director Sarah Perry, who envisions a vegetable garden that will supply local restaurants and provide jobs for the teens in the adjoining neighborhood.
“We have 3.5 acres of green space right next door to this community of kids looking for work. There’s something here we can pay them to do, but where are we going to get the money? That’s where all of this started. We need a for-profit business to support our nonprofit mission.”
Perry took her idea at Startup Weekend Fredericksburg. Within 12 hours, Downtown Farm was launched and had over US$1,000 in living soil conditioner sales. Downtown Greens – the nonprofit – has long been composting their kitchen scraps and yard waste with leaves from the city.
In addition, local restaurants have already expressed interest in buying vegetables from the future garden. “That’s a longer term goal,” Parry said. She plans a kick-starter to fund a greenhouse in which to begin the vegetable garden.
“Our hope is Downtown Farm as a business will provide for the nonprofit Downtown Greens that we care so much about,” Perry said.