The Kula Urban Farm Project is the latest social enterprise conceived by Interfaith Neighbors with the intention of further bolstering the economic outlook for Asbury Park, New Jersey. It is an expansion of the Kula Café Program which is a paid training site and workplace for young adults facing significant barriers to employment, but who have the desire and willingness to create change in their lives.
The mission of the farm project is three-fold; 1) create a sustainable business model for the urban farm, 2) provide job training and educational opportunities, 3) engage the Asbury Park Westside neighborhood and build community.
Expected outcomes are:
- Provide residents with exposure to the growing urban agriculture movement and related industries
- Via training create new employment opportunities for residents who struggle to find work
- Revenue generation for long-term sustainability
- Increased availability of affordable, fresh fruits, vegetables, and other foods for urban residents living in a neighborhood that lacks accessibility to these kinds of foods
- Alternative food production with profoundly less dependence on petrochemical inputs
- Exposure to and development of entrepreneurial-thinking
Agricultural production systems operating in an urban environment take advantage of proximity of resources and consumers. This kind of farming operates with a much greater degree of consumer and other stakeholder involvement than usual — resulting in a stronger consumer-producer relationship. Buyers will pay a premium for custom-grown vegetables that can be picked and delivered the same day with a resulting longer shelf life than a product that is shipped over a long distance.
Kula Café Synergy
Some of the produce from the farm, which is located on property adjacent to the Kula Café, will be sold in the Café. Kula Café participants will also get work experience that will enhance their understanding of food production and reinforce the health benefits of fresh food. Interfaith Neighbors will explore job placement opportunities with area garden centers, nurseries, landscaping companies, and other businesses related to horticulture in the area.
The farm has 3 major functional areas: 1) A commercial growing area in the middle section of the site, 2) An educational garden facing the street 3) A small orchard along the southern boarder of the property.
This is the main area of the farm and the source of revenue to sustain the operation. It includes a 20" by 84" greenhouse. The produce in the greenhouse will be grown using aeroponic and hydroponic techniques to create a year round growing environment. Also, during the non-winter months 4 by 8 foot raised beds will be cultivated. Revenue will be generated through sales to area restaurants at a farm stand in the Kula Cafe.
Along the edges of the plot is an engaging place to gain passer-by interest is the location and the educational garden. Classes for adults and children are conducted during the growing season at this area of the farm on healthy eating and different gardening topics. The produce grown in this area is available to neighborhood citizens that “work” this area.
The orchard is another area to demonstrate methods to build a just and sustainable food system. Like the educational garden, fruit grown in the orchard is available to neighborhood citizens that “work” the orchard.
By incorporating entrepreneurial principles with considerable non-profit management expertise and rigorous cost control systems, we can build sustainable businesses with a "social conscience" intent on providing greater opportunities for community residents.
We believe the Kula Urban Farm initiative is fully consistent with our social enterprise development strategy to:
1) Create new sustainable businesses that address a local market or community need while training residents for jobs in the local economy;
2) Encourage program participants to develop an entrepreneurial mind-set and the requisite skills so that they might launch their own businesses at some future point.
Visit http://www.kulacafe.org/ for more about the Kula Urban Farm project.
Contact Roger Boyce – rogerb@ interfaithneighbors.org