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Nonprofit Sweetwater Farm Gets Boost from Hillsborough County

Community education the central mission of Town 'N Country facility

Hillsborough County has allocated $100,000 to the nonprofit Sweetwater Organic Community Farm to perpetuate and enhance its efforts to promote ecological agriculture, healthy eating, and sustainability.

Since 1995 the urban farm on Sweetwater Creek has educated community residents, including busloads of students, about the benefits of growing and consuming their own wholesome foods. Tended solely by volunteers and funded with donations, the Town 'N Country farm at 6942 W Comanche Ave. produces organic vegetables and herbs, meaning they are grown without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, or irradiation.

The community farm's central mission is education. It hosts classes, workshops, and events. Members donate money and labor in exchange for fresh organic produce. There's a Sunday farmers market from November to May, a music series, farm tours, and field trips for children and adults. The farm provides a venue from which eco-friendly local entrepreneurs sell organic produce, handmade arts and crafts, and other items.

The County's contribution helps ensure the 6-acre farm will keep serving and enlightening Hillsborough County residents. "This approval by the (Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners) is a testament to its commitment to Sweetwater Organic Community Farm, local farmers, the community, and the future of regenerative agriculture," says Chris Kenrick, who with his wife, Joni, took over stewardship of the farm about two years ago.

"We need more local farms and more local farmers," Chris says. "We need places for them to learn, grow, and access land."

Strawberries
Volunteers grow a variety of vegetables and herbs at Sweetwater Organic Community Farm.

About 7,000 children - mostly Hillsborough County students - visit the farm in a typical year, though fewer went there during the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent decline in cases of the coronavirus has corresponded with a surge of interest in the farm, which is just north of Hillsborough Avenue in a highly developed part of northwest Hillsborough County.

The local government's allocation will pay for upgrades to ensure ADA compliance at the farm and its adjoining store/café. It will buy solar panels, energy-efficient lighting, cisterns, a gate, and updated signs. There is money for a pergola, a playground, and commercial kitchen equipment for a new store/café that will help generate revenue for the nonprofit.

Hillsborough County supports multiple nonprofits, and many of them apply sustainable principles in providing social services, education, and other community benefits. Hillsborough County Extension Service offers many educational programs related to farming, gardening, and nutrition.

Photo: A volunteer tends crops during a Sunday farmers market at Sweetwater Organic Community Farm.

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