RICHMOND, Va. -- In the heart of Richmond, on Bainbridge Street, sits almost an acre of land now filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Tricycle Farm is a welcomed sight for neighbors in Richmond's Manchester community.
Steve Hammond knows what Tricycle Farm can mean to the community in the heart of a food desert, a place where many people lack access to fresh foods. It’s a community similar to the one he grew up in on Idlewood Avenue in Richmond.
"All we had was the market or another corner store, which didn’t necessarily have the products that you needed," he said. "So, it hits home that there are many people who come from what I came from. Many have limited access to the resources they need to survive."
Hammond now works for Tricycle as the non-profit’s Policy & Communications Manager.
The urban ag non-profit is working to address the food desert dilemma by providing fresh produce to 28 local corner stores in Richmond. On a larger scale, Executive Director Sally Schwitters said they are also trying to address the crisis of the dwindling number of farmers.
That’s why Tricycle implemented a fellowship program for folks like Michael James.
James plans to open a farm in the coming years, putting to use the expertise he has gained as part of the fellowship program.
"The average age of a farmer is 58 years old. Now we have partnered with the USDA to create the first certification in urban agriculture. This is where they’re learning the business and the practice of sustainable urban agriculture," Schwitters explained.
Taking a break from harvesting sweet potatoes with two of his colleagues, James explained that he envisioned staying in the Richmond region to start his farm. He said the fellowship is preparing him well for that.
"The resources we have been connected to were immeasurable because beforehand I did not know there were so many options for help for people like us," James added.
The staff members at Tricycle hope planting seeds of self-sufficiency will ultimately make the greatest difference.
"If I teach you how to grow your own food to not only to take care of your family, but maybe to even take care of your community, that goes much further," Hammond said.
The organization hopes to draw in more community members who are eager to learn about urban farming. They set aside volunteer days so neighbors can come by and help out on the Bainbridge Street farm and their other farm in Church Hill on North 32nd Street.
The organization is also holding a huge Harvest Festival Friday, October 26 from 6 p.m.- 10 p.m. The event is a fundraiser for the non-profit. It’s sponsored by Dominion Energy.
"Access to fresh, healthy food is a critical community need and Dominion Energy is proud to support Tricycle and their efforts to provide fresh fruits and vegetables as well as education," Dominion Energy spokesperson Rob Richardson said.