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[Sound: footsteps in the garden]
It’s a sunny and breezy day at Urban Roots Farm in central Springfield. As owners Adam and Melissa Millsap tend to their one acre garden at the corner of Missouri Avenue and State Street, their children are playing with the chickens near the house. The farm is enjoying its first summer harvest, and for the Millsaps, this harvest means much more than just a fridge full of vegetables. It means sharing their passion with neighbors.
“We are fostering community…in my personal opinion, something that has led to the detriment of our society as a whole is lack of community and lack of knowing your neighbors and being involved with your neighbors. And you know, like it or not, when we know people, we are accountable to them one way or another. And that plays an important role in how we all behave,” he said.
Two years ago, Adam was laid off from his job at a steel processing plant. With no income and two kids to support, he and his wife decided to follow their hearts and start an urban farm.
But their efforts go beyond planting, weeding, and harvesting. They’re educating people on the importance of buying local, knowing your farmer, and tracing the path your food takes from garden to plate. Melissa said they have started a not-for-profit group through the Springfield Urban Agriculture Coalition to help create school gardens, all part of an effort to tie local farmers together.
“Whenever you are farming in the city, you’re going to be working with your community. And there are so many ways of education and reaching out. And I think there are a lot of farmers in this area that want to do that, but maybe don’t have the time or the time to organize those. And so, we’re hoping with that organization it can kind of serve as the hub and pull all the growers together,” she said.
The Millsaps sell their produce to local venues like Mama Jean’s and Homegrown Foods, as well as the Commercial Street Farmer’s Market. But Adam said that eventually, Urban Roots Farm will transition into a Community Supported Agriculture farm, or CSA.
“It’s essentially a subscription to a farm. So members sign up at the beginning of the season or before the season. They pay up front for their share through the season, and basically what it does is it entitles them to a portion of the harvest of the farm throughout the season,” he said.
Tesa Madsen-Mcqueen is one of two interns at the farm, and said she has learned a lot from the Millsaps since arriving in April. She sees the impact they make on the local community every day.
“They’re trying to make this an educational model farm. And so I can really see that in the different kind of events and all the people that come and help, and they’re always willing to help, even with my little garden here,” she said.
The Millsaps welcome anyone who wants to stop by to volunteer or just ask questions. They say they want to see more urban farms take root in Springfield, and see more people put their hearts and souls into local farming just as they have done.
For KSMU News, I’m Samuel Crowe.