The City Magazine Since 1975

The Veggie Whisperer

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Germaine Jenkins, as seen through the banana plant leaves in the “food forest” at Fresh Future Farm; photograph by Ruta Elvikyte

October 14, 2015

The Veggie Whisperer
North Charleston’s Germaine Jenkins is bringing fresh and affordable organic produce to a local food desert


written by Molly Ramsey

At the Chicora Place Community Garden in North Charleston’s Chicora-Cherokee neighborhood (an official food desert, per the USDA), 15 garden beds and planters overflow with fruits and veggies. Less than half a mile away at Fresh Future Farm, a new commercial and educational urban farm and store, stands a food forest: a curated community of produce-producing flora including herbs, blueberry bushes, apple trees, and more. The driving force behind it all is Germaine Jenkins, a certified Master Gardener who established the garden in 2011 and recently founded the farm. Here, the North Charleston resident—a winner of our 2015 Giving Back Awards in the Community Catalyst category—fills us in on both ventures.

CM: How did you get into gardening?
GJ:
As a 30-year-old single mom, I left a full-time job to attend Johnson & Wales University. We lived in public housing and needed food. I went to pantries, but they served processed foods that I wouldn’t normally buy for my kids. I said: when we leave public housing, we are going to get a house, and that house is going to have a garden. Fast forward to 2007, and we owned a house; soon we had vegetables everywhere.

CM: What inspired the community garden?
GJ:
In 2008, I got involved with Metanoia, the community development nonprofit that sold us our home. I became a board member and started attending seminars on how neighborhoods like ours could be revitalized. Many success stories were connected to food.

CM: How has it affected the neighborhood?
GJ:
People who volunteer in the garden, which is sponsored by Metanoia, take home seeds, plants, and produce. Before it opened, a few people in the neighborhood gardened. Since then, at least eight home gardens have been started.

CM: What is Fresh Future Farm’s goal?
GJ:
We’re trying to take what we did at the community garden and apply it to a commercial venture to generate income that will stay in the neighborhood. The farm stand sells the produce we grow, which will be more affordable than at neighborhood grocery stores. We’ll also offer guided tours of the farm and give tips for urban gardening.

CM: What kind of tips are we talking?
GJ:
You know those clear plastic drawers you see at yard sales and big-box stores? You can turn those into mini greenhouses!

For the latest news on Fresh Future Farm and its just-opened farm stand, visit them on Facebook.

For details on the 2015 Giving Back Awards, coming up November 20th at Memminger Auditorium, click here.

To snag tickets to our 40th Anniversary Gala tomorrow night at the Gaillard Center, click here.