Germaine Jenkins grew a little idea into a big one.
A recipient of the 2018 John Egerton Prize from the Southern Foodways Alliance, Germaine Jenkins is the force behind Fresh Future Farm, a farm and grocery store in North Charleston, South Carolina. When Jenkins first moved there, she found that if her family wanted food of a certain quality, she had to leave the neighborhood. In an effort to lift up her community and provide a necessary resource, she started growing produce and selling it in her grocery store. Her approach is one grounded in pragmatism and sustainability.
JT: You were exposed to a community garden at a young age. How did that affect you?
GJ: It was like a light switch; I can’t even explain it. It was across the street from my day care. Before that, I hadn’t made the connection about how food gets to the store.
JT: If there was someone interested in starting an urban farm in their community, what’s one actionable first step they can do?
GJ: Start doing something. We started in our yard, then did some work at a school garden, then a community garden, then Fresh Future Farm. You can’t go from one to a hundred without having some experience. Practice in the spaces that you have access to. Learn from that practice what you can and cannot do in your growing zone, and then expand.
JT: Would you say farming is constant change?
GJ: I would say yes. Especially given the climate issues that are out of your control.
JT: And what about storms? How do they impact your farm, and how do you prepare for them?
GJ: Now that we have the crop tunnel, it’s like a giant umbrella. The chicken coop is probably the most secure thing on the property—it’s secured directly in the ground, and muscadine grapes hold it all down.
JT: You came to Charleston to go to culinary school. Does that education come in handy?
GJ: Yes! I farm like it’s a cookbook. I mix techniques like recipes. A little bit of that with a little bit of that.
JT: Sustainability is such a buzzword when it comes to farming—I’ve heard you talk about how recycling and composting are the easy part and that sustaining staff and relationships and finances are the harder parts. What does sustainability mean to you?
GJ: To me, sustainability means we have the revenue streams from different areas to be able to operate the farm. Thirty percent of what we bring in right now is revenue. We’re trying to get that to 75 percent.
JT: Are there ways someone reading this can support you?
GJ: If it’s financial support, go to our website. But the other thing is spreading awareness.