Kevin Woods of the North Memphis Farmers Collective puts his love for Memphis and passion for urban gardening to work in a way that improves his neighborhood.
I talked with him recently about the NMFC, their current Kickstarter campaign (which only has a few days left!) and his own journey into urban farming and gardening.
My favorite thing about Kevin is his ability to see potential where others might see emptyness. By the end of our interview, I was inspired and excited about the future of Memphis urban famring and the sustainable food scene. Check out the Q&A below to see what I mean.
Kevin is originally from Nashville and went to school in Knoxville. He and his girlfriend, Danielle Salton (a law student at The University of Memphis) moved here last fall. Together they make up In Season Produce, one of three farms in the North Memphis Farmers Collective (NMFC).
Holly: How did you become a farmer?
Kevin: When I was in Knoxville I started getting interested in plants, growing food, and sustainability. I was in an apartment so I was doing everything on a very small scale. But when I moved to Memphis last October, the urge to grow my own food and crops got stronger. I got a vacant lot in my neighborhood in North Memphis and started farming it.
Holly: What's your role in the North Memphis Farmers Collective?
Kevin: I knew Nathaniel Davis (Ronin Leo Organics) who introduced me to Adam Guerrero (SmartMule Urban Farms). We all have our own plots that together make up the Collective. In Season Produce is my brand. I grow an array of crops but we're well known for our tomatoes and pickles – we make sweet and spicy as well as dill pickles. The NMFC is three farms on about 2.5 acres total.
More folks from the NMFC. Photo via NMFC on Facebook.
Holly: What has NMFC achieved, aside from producing and selling locally-grown produce?
Kevin: My garden in North Memphis is right near a high school and an elementary school. It used to be just a vacant lot, and when I first started farming it, people thought I was crazy. Some people who walked by even cursed me out.
Then, things started blooming. The conversation changed. People stopped by to thank me and say, "that's so beautiful". It's something better to look at than weeds; it's something for the kids to see every day when they're on their way to school. The NMFC farms give the communities a sense of hope, betterment, and possibility.
Holly: What will this Kickstarter (which ends on August 6) help the NCRM achieve?
Kevin: It will help us get new garden tools and be more efficient. Things like shovels, saws, those kinds of tools get worn out. Right now, we are doing a lot by hand. This money will help us get more property, invest in fruit trees, and a tractor. It's just a start to really build something, a foundation.
Holly: What do you wish people knew about urban farming?
Kevin: It's not easy, but it's completely doable and it needs to be done. Growing food is something that needs to be implement in all communities, but places like North Memphis especially. People may drive through this area and think "I don't want to be here" and they see problems and blight. I wish they could see it as more of an opportunity to improve. People can make a living, they can live off their land, they can get a sense of hope.
If you want to support the North Memphis Farmers Collective, click here to donate to the Kickstarter.
If you want to purchase produce from NMFC farms, here's the schedule:
Monday through Friday: SmartMule Urban Farm Store (3713 Townes Ave.) 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Wednesday: Memphis Botanic Gardens Farmers Market, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Thursday: Overton Park Community Farmers Market (opens Sept. 3) 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday: Cooper Young Community Farmers Market, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Click here to check out the I Love Memphis Guide to Mid-South Farmers Markets.