Greenville County Soil and Water Conservation District, South Carolina

Woodside City Farm was designed to work with nature using south facing slopes, existing forest, roads on ridges and native perennial food plantings.

The Greenville County SWCD sought to address food desert areas. The city of Greenville was built primarily from mill communities for the textile industry. As the textile industry slowly pulled out of Greenville, dozens of mill communities were left without work. Legacy Charter School, devoted to ensuring every student gets good food, exercises and graduates, is changing the landscape in the Woodside Mill community. The district partnered with Legacy to build a farm on an empty lot owned by the county. The farm was designed to grow food for the school while educating students about food sources and new urban farmers about conservation practices.

A portion of the six-acre lot was converted from an overgrown kudzu forest to a productive farm selling produce to restaurants and local markets. The tagline for Woodside City Farm became “From Kudzu to Crops.” When the program was started, the manager endeavored to find the pitfalls involved in starting an urban farm. There was not much information on the Internet, so project leaders decided a primary legacy of the farm would be a blog outlining all the barriers to urban farming. These included starting a business, obtaining a water source, site contamination, zoning issues, floodplain regulations, obtaining Good Agricultural Practices certification, harvesting and storage concerns. The blog, which can be found on Woodside City Farm’s website, will be maintained online indefinitely by the Greenville County SWCD.

The farm worked with science teachers in the school to design semester-long projects, which included experiments with biochar and led to students volunteering on the farm. The farm also designed an engaging three-week workshop on composting for the students.

Because of the farm manager’s dedication, the local Woodside Mill community also became involved in the farm. Volunteers, donations and other grants were heaped onto the project. Unfortunately, the project was fraught with a major unforeseeable issue. A brownfields grant paid for a Phase I Environmental Assessment and a Ground Penetrating Radar investigation toward the end of the year. These reports found there was possible contamination on the site in an area far away from the farmed plot. The school was unwilling to put their students at risk and asked for the project to close.

A project for seniors was designed to determine if biochar was an effective soil amendment. The students learned about soil health during the semester-long project.

Sustainability

There were several steps taken during the project that will ensure knowledge from the project continues. Students learned in-depth about soil health, which they can use for the rest of their lives. Some students are now interested in careers in farming.

The Woodside City Farm website, outlining considerations for beginning an urban farm, will continue indefinitely.

Knowledge gained by the farm manager, field hands and district personnel will be used to give technical advice to other farms in Greenville County. The farm manager is enthusiastic about the experience, and is currently helping other farmers in the area.

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