[image-1]For over a year, Germaine Jenkins has been building a garden in the midst of a food desert.

Situated on Success Street in North Charleston, Fresh Future Farm is an ongoing effort to provide the residents of the surrounding neighborhood with a source of fresh produce and improve the health of those in the community. Last fall, Jenkins opened a farm stand near the 0.81-acre garden, accepting SNAP benefits, cash, and debit purchases for fruits and vegetables. Additional produce was donated from local sources, such as the MUSC Urban Farm, Fields to Families, Sow Seasonal Farm, Sweetgrass Garden, and Lowcountry Street Grocery.

Now Jenkins is ready to expand with the construction of a chicken coop and the purchase of a commercial refrigerator and freezer to allow the farm to broaden its offerings to meat and dairy products, as well as eggs and other grocery staples.

The bulk of the construction will be completed by Sunday,” Jenkin says of the new coop, “and I expect there will be lots of finishing touches coming for another month before we source our pullets and the chicken magic happens.”

Fundraisers, donations from the Chicora-Cherokee Neighborhood Association, and money from Coastal Community Foundation’s NEW Fund are currently being used to pay for the farm’s projects. Jenkins says in the future she plans to use profits from the farm to offer cooking demonstrations and gardening classes, such as an Introduction to Gullah Herbcraft course, which will be coming up later this spring. The farm also hosts a volunteer workday on the third Saturday of every month to allow all those interested a chance to get their hands dirty.

“My hope is that through the farm store and the other programs at the farm, we will be able to train and pay teens and adults to help us manage our operation,” Jenkins says.

While raising and sustaining crops takes patience, Jenkins sees the farm as a vital component to the healthy future of the community that has gone without a full-service grocery store for too long.

“Our community lacks the density and disposable income needed to keep a traditional store in business,” she says. “As a neighborhood declines, it poses a substantial number of health risks to the community. Areas that have failing schools, high rates of crime and unemployment, limited access to healthy foods, and high exposure to environmental hazards tend to shorten life expectancy.”

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