Dig In Entrepreneurs: My Take-away Messages
Written by Sara Merz, AHA Director
Kevin Brice, City of Oaks Foundation and Raleigh City Farm
AHA hosted its 6th Annual Dig In on March 7, and it was a great day filled with connections and learning. Personally, I was struck by panelists in our closing session, where 2 of 3 speakers attributed Dig In as a key tool in the entrepreneurial efforts they started.
The themes that jumped out at me:
1) Dig In is a key resource for people who start and grow urban ag ventures, as well as community and school gardens. Two of our three panelists credited attending Dig In in years past for being key in the beginning of their local foods efforts.
2) These efforts are very new. And we can’t take young ventures for granted. Yes, it is incredible these things are happening – and as a community, we need to nurture them. All three ventures must have buyers – and a distribution network – that works and is relatively efficient, in order to be able to make money and continue. City Farm can use volunteers.
Tami Purdue, Sweet Peas Urban Gardens
3) I so appreciate that these entrepreneurs were willing to spend time telling their stories! Sometimes the leaders in a new area do not have time to spare because their work requires their attention. Their work is their gift to us, and taking time to tell us about it is a huge bonus for the community.
Kevin Brice, described going to Dig In in 2011 and meeting Josh Whiton there, who had the concept for Raleigh City Farm but needed land. Kevin, who worked for Triangle Land Conservancy at the time, helped connect Josh with a downtown Raleigh landowner, and Raleigh City Farm was born. He continues to serve as a board member.
Tami Purdue, who was a legal and project manager with 25 years’ experience, went to Dig In! in 2014, and credited it as being part of her journey that led her to leave her job and start Sweet Peas Urban Gardens, a growing micro greens business that now has 3 other partners, including one whose day job is at Inter-Faith Food Shuttle. (See profile here.)
Matt Spitzer, Endless Sun Produce
And our third panelist, Matt Spitzer, of Endless Sun Produce, grows 300 to 500 pounds of basil and greens per week with his business partner Chase Werner. They sell to local restaurants and just built their commercial size hydroponic greenhouse last spring at Raleigh City Farm.
So I want to celebrate the local businesses, and I want to support them. We end up asking them to spend their time and energy being the “poster children” of amazing local efforts, and I also want to honor that they are working really hard to do the work, so asking them to take time to tell us how they do it is a big ask. Their websites will show you the restaurants that are buying their product, and the markets where you can buy direct.