our history

When Mary Phillips returned to Memphis as an eager post-graduate, she  quickly started her own company as an aspiring urban farmer. Soon, Mary realized that in order to run a sustainable business, she needed a sustainable business plan. Wes Riddle came along and together they worked to create Roots Memphis. After three years of business research, late night planning, and early morning farming, they launched Roots Memphis Farm Academy: the non-profit that would train new farmers with a greater focus on business planning, a valuable asset that many farming incubators did not offer. Now, Roots Memphis students have the opportunity to not only be sustainable farmers, but also agricultural business entrepreneurs. 

 

our goals

1. Stimulate the local food system

Five years ago, the average age of the American farmer was 55, and now it's 57. In these last five years, there's been an increase of 30% in the number of farmers above the age of 75, and a decrease in the number of farmers under 25 by 20%. The average age of a Roots Memphis farmer is 32. 

By lowering the barriers that individuals face when going into farming, we make it easier for more of our neighbors to become farmers. Not only do we grow farmers, but we plant the seeds that encourage more to be interested in having local farmers. Our staff members are passionate about the local food economy, and they love spreading the good word of farms and their dedicated farmers. Roots hires locally, pays an ethical wage, and is farmer-, people-, and planet-first. 

2. be Environmentally Friendly

By being Certified Naturally Grown, we utilize sustainable growing practices that are higher than those required for organic certification from the USDA.  The farm is completely free of artificial chemicals and pesticides, is non-GMO, and uses environmentally-restorative soil, water, and other on-farm practices.

Additionally, not only does being local stimulate the local economy, but it also reduces the environmental cost of shipping produce. We put an emphasis on more direct farm-to-consumer mediums, reducing the need to transport produce long distances. 

3. Reduce Food Waste

In the U.S. alone, 6 billion pounds of edible produce is wasted because it is ugly. Typical standards call for the produce that is not shaped or colored correctly to be set aside and many times thrown out because it's not 'market ready.' 

We understand this, but we're jumping on board with the growing voices that are embracing these ugly produce and selling them for a reduced price. We're fans of embracing different and using everything we can - we really hate seeing our hard work go to waste, especially in a missed opportunity for the consumer. Come help us roll out our own inglorious produce as we set aside produce not 'market ready' at our farmers' markets, and to buy in bulk. We think it'll be pretty glorious. 

4. Feed the Need

Consistently in the top 10 hungriest cities in America, Memphis has a hunger problem. We're one of three counties in the country that has more than 100,000 food insecure individuals. By growing and strengthening our local food system, we hope to reduce this number. Until we're able to see that difference though, we rely on donations from people who care. Summer is the hungriest time of the year, and you can help this. Our plate it forward program connects a weekly CSA share of our vegetables to families who would otherwise be without. Additionally, if we have extra produce that doesn't go to market or to our CSA, we donate to the Food Justice Ministry at First Congo Church. We give locally as much as possible, while still being a sustainable model and ensuring that our farmers are receiving their fair wages.   

5. Create community 

Community is important. We're all people in this world, and we can do the most by collectively working towards our common goals, not to mention the health benefits of friendshipcommunity, and strong relationships. By creating people passionate about local food systems, getting people involved, and simply spreading the good word, we can grow our community. Ever felt that that spark at farmers' markets? That's where the magic happens. People coming together, connecting and sharing. We are in this together. Join us.