Fresh Future Farm started raising money last summer to buy its small plot of land in North Charleston. Hoping to raise $60,000, it banked $72,500 from hundreds of supporters nationwide. A year later, the farm still has not struck a deal. It's time for it to happen.
Since Germaine Jenkins founded Fresh Future Farm in 2014, the nonprofit has grown into a multi-faceted community development group. Using its 0.8-acre lot to use agricultural education to uproot generational poverty and improve food access, Fresh Future Farm has its eyes on replicating its mission elsewhere in North Charleston. It deserves the chance to continue that work.
As the City Paper reported June 19, Jenkins said that after unproductive talks to make a long-term home on Success Street with her landlord, the City of North Charleston, she was eventually told to instead work with neighborhood nonprofit Metanoia to come to an agreement. Unlike Fresh Future Farm, Metanoia has been able to advance a deal with North Charleston officials to buy land in the Chicora-Cherokee neighborhood, including the dilapidated Chicora Elementary School. Why? We don't know, the city has remained quiet.
Understandably, Fresh Future Farm feels like it is being jerked around. Now, Metanoia and Fresh Future Farm are forced to navigate a business deal despite a relationship strained from years of butting heads over methods and mindsets.
A proposed deal would sell the land to Fresh Future Farm for about $45,000 when Metanoia purchases nearby plots from the city, but a fire at the school has delayed the transaction for months. The terms of the sale to FFF would put Metanoia in the driver's seat by giving it the first right of refusal if Fresh Future ever sells, putting an unreasonable 10-percent cap on the selling price. Jenkins has rightly balked at those terms.
"We get to a point where we have an opportunity to buy the land. We're given what the conditions are — how much it would cost — we raised the money. And there's just more hurdles, one after the next at every single step," Jenkins told us.
Metanoia CEO Bill Stanfield said his group's leaders are doing their jobs to protect the long-term use of Fresh Future's property if it should ever change hands. That's an understandable goal. But like Metanoia, Fresh Future Farm is laser-focused on lifting up the surrounding Chicora-Cherokee neighborhood.
The city and groups like Metanoia should do what they can to help stall forces of gentrification that can upend low-income communities. But if those precautions hold back a dynamic group like Fresh Future Farm from accessing the full value of its hard-earned investments, the impact could unfortunately be the same.
The clock is ticking as Fresh Future Farm's lease comes to an end this fall, though Metanoia leaders have pledged to continue negotiation with Jenkins and the FFF board.
Fresh Future Farm has put in the hard work to create something special on Success Street, and Jenkins said the farm is committed to remaining in Chicora-Cherokee as the group works from an ambitious, growth-oriented five-year plan. It's time to make a deal.