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State of the South 2014: In Greenville, SC, Dirt and Entrepreneurship Go Hand in Hand

State of the South 2014: In Greenville, SC, Dirt and Entrepreneurship Go Hand in Hand

At Mill Village Farms, they are growing food and jobs. We visited the farm on a recent State of the South road trip. In a community that has gone through so much after numerous textile mill closings, Mill Village Farms is a ray of light—community members have come together to restore hope for their future by investing in their youth. Each summer the farm employs students, ages 13 to 18. Participants learn how to garden and then sell the produce in their communities and surrounding Upstate South Carolina counties.

On the surface it looks like just another neighborhood garden, but it’s more. The farm provides valuable learning opportunities for youth in a community where there’s not much going on in the summers. Sean Dogan, pastor of Long Branch Baptist Church, is one of the farm’s supporters. “The youth of Greenville are great, innovative, smart, spontaneous, and energetic,” Dogan says. “In the right atmosphere and with the right opportunity, they blossom.”

Here’s Tisha Barnes and Will Fallaw discussing the Youth Partners program and the Good to Go Mobile Market.

In addition to gardening, students in the Youth Partners program learn about leadership, teamwork, and sustainable agriculture in a 10-week partnership with Clemson University. Students learn the concepts of entrepreneurship and write a business plan. Their summer includes a trip to Charleston, S.C., to visit the historic Charleston City Market. They meet with vendors, gather ideas, and develop a vision for a business they want to start.

Once proposals are developed, students pitch their ideas for $1,000 in seed funding. These creative students have come up with really interesting ideas, from bike repair to youth development. By stamping out food deserts and providing at-risk youth with job experience and entrepreneurial skills, Mill Village Farms is changing Greenville communities—one vegetable at a time.

You can follow us on Instagram for dispatches from upcoming visits to other Southern destinations.