How do you create lasting change in a small community?
Started in 2012, Project Main Street is an umbrella term for our Non-Profit here in Newark, Ohio. Newark is a post industrial town which nearly collapsed after industry left in the 1980's. The 2010 census states that of the 35,000 person workforce, 14,000 are unemployed, with many of these people no longer in the system or actively looking for employment. We operate out of The Sparta Coffeeshop and Restaurant in downtown Newark and we're working to eliminate homelessness, hunger, and unemployment, as well as renovating dilapidated housing. The Sparta serves as a "3rd place" for people to meet and discuss community issues, which allows for collaboration between groups. Here, meals are served, along with a hot cup of coffee and a listening ear. Many of these individuals are skilled laborers and veterans and are working closely with us.
Divisions of Project Main Street
Project Main Street Builds purchases dilapidated housing and transforms these homes into net-zero affordable housing. Currently we own 2 houses which can hold 24 individuals or 12 couples, giving them a chance to move away from overpriced rent in rundown houses and placing them in a loving, supportive environment.
Project Main Street Grows is our local agriculture program which makes chemical-free produce available to those in poverty or facing financial hardships. We have paired with Anything Grows Locally to fulfill the mission of Project Main Street Grows. We believe that access to chemical-free produce is a right for all individuals, not a privilege only for the rich. Anything Grows Locally is owned and operated by recent Denison University graduates Lia Crosby '13 and Shane Richmond '13. The plants for the summer of 2013 were started in the basement of a house they rented in Newark during their final semester of school using self-constructed tables and grow lights. These were then transplanted into a small donated plot behind Shiloh Baptist Church in East Newark. From there, we served our CSA members, two farmers markets, and The Sparta with fresh vegetables. Over the summer we employed 15 teens through Licking County Job and Family Services who were either living below the poverty line or in the foster care system. Together, we all tended the garden and worked towards a solid work ethic to develop many soft and hard skills that are essential for the workforce.
For our upcoming season we have been fortunate to work with the Licking County Parks District in acquiring a farm which will serve as our new, larger home. It has plenty of land and an old dairy barn, but it has been many years since the fields have been worked by hand. We are working with them in conjunction with Denison University to reinvent the farm into a parks destination, which will allow visitors to educate themselves on farming methods and possibly lend a hand on the farm.
For this project in particular, we are looking to fund the farm on a much larger scale than last year. We need lots of tools and equipment to adjust to more space and also to more teen employees, who will be paid through Job and Family Services again this year.
You might be asking, so what will you do with the money you raise?
At Project Main Street and Anything Grows Locally we are reinventing organic/chemical free farming and working towards making it accessible for all. By eliminating chemical costs and correctly working the land, we have decreased our monetary need to operate the farm for the season. We believe this should translate to lower costs for the consumer, since we are spending less to grow it. We are enrolled in 3 local farmers markets, and 2 wholesale contracts with Denison University and The Sparta, along with optional wholesalers to pass off leftover produce. With this new land, we can make this farm both an economically and environmentally sustainable project while changing the lives of Newark and Licking County residents through local food access. The money raised through this kickstarter will allow us to purchase all necessary equipment and supplies to grow the healthiest and freshest produce to our many awaiting customers.
Seeds and plant starts
Hand tools for employees
Chickens and all necessary supplies for them
Deer fencing for our 4.6 acre vegetable plot
Electric mesh fence for pasturing chickens
Signs for farmers markets
Refrigerated box truck
Any money raised above our goal will go toward further streamlining our operation.
For instance, If we reach:
$35,000- We can purchase our own tractor, eliminating the need to borrow from friends and neighbors.
$40,000- We can invest in equipment to make hay and purchase our first cows to do grass fed beef.
$50,000- We can construct our very own greenhouse, complete with a wood burner to start our tomatoes and peppers ourselves to get a leg up on the competition.
A hydroponic system like the one you'll hear about below would allow us to utilize state of the art equipment to redefine food production in Licking County. The two bay system retails at around $90,000, which after running the numbers, could be made with this system in under 10 months.
The more money we can raise, the more doors we can open for local food access in Newark and Licking County.
Risks and challenges
As with any farm, we rely on the weather to make our plants grow. We run the risk of drought or too much rain affecting our plants, although we try to use our irrigation systems as efficiently as possible to combat weather-related issues. Our customers are understanding of this, and having a lot of produce during some weeks and less during others is not a problem. We also do our best to prevent pests from affecting our plants. We use only organic fertilizers and use integrated pest management rather than pesticides to keep away insects, and we are looking at getting a deer fence installed to keep out bigger animals that like to eat our veggies as much as we do! Though we are fairly new at this, we have lots of reliable, experienced community members who have been generous thus far and will continue to contribute advice and volunteer work to our cause. Some of these members include generational farmers, business owners, teachers and professors, local historians, accountants and bankers, filmmakers, artists, and students of all ages. After all, if you want to affect a community, you must know many of the people in it, and we are confident that any issues we encounter will be solvable by putting all of our experience together!
The idea behind Project Main Street is that it will eventually become self-sustainable. The Kickstarter is meant to pay for startup costs, but expenses in following years will be paid for by profits from selling our produce. This will include costs for seeds, equipment upgrades, animal purchases and so forth. In addition, we want to be able to provide jobs in our community for adults, not just teenagers through Job and Family Services. Depending how much we make at farmers markets, we could add paid positions to our staff, which has been solely volunteer-based for over a year.
You will have a row of your choice of vegetables planted in your name or in honor of a loved one, marked with a handmade wooden sign. We'll send you a photo of your garden row! Plus all previous rewards.
You will receive an 8x10 print from resident artist Allen Schwartz. You will also get a photo of a chicken purchased in your honor, with a name of your choosing. Plus a 2-month CSA subscription if you live in the Central Ohio area, or a compete window garden kit for you to grow fresh lettuce at home.
You will receive an original painting by resident artist Allen Schwartz. You will also get a photo of a chicken coop and ten chickens purchased in your honor, with a coop name of your choosing. Plus all previous rewards.