This Mom’s Love for Community Led to Her Starting a Farm

Germaine Jenkins grew up gardening and wanting to give back to her neighbors. Today, she’s the proud co-founder of Future Fresh Farms in South Carolina. Here, her inspiring story and tips for other parents.

Germaine Jenkins’ parents made it a point to teach her about generosity and giving back to her community. Her mother also taught her not to “count her chickens before they hatch.” What she’s taken away from that? “We don't count on funds that we don't have already,” explains Jenkins. “Unless we have an official commitment, it doesn’t exist.” And it’s that mindset that has allowed the mom of three to become a successful farmer and community visionary.

Growing up in Cleveland, Jenkins recalls being exposed to community gardening from a very young age—in part thanks to a particularly memorable daycare field trip. “I became an instant vegetable lover after harvesting my own crops,” she says.

Later, in her twenties, her interest in food was fueled once more by culinary shows on PBS. After finding herself running to the local farmers market to replicate recipes she had seen on TV, Jenkins was inspired to go to culinary school in South Carolina.

Finding it challenging to feed her family while going to school full-time, Jenkins soon learned through her work that other folks in her community were in the same boat. After moving into a house in North Charleston, South Carolina and planting her own home garden, Jenkins started talking to her neighbors about using their yard to produce food. 

“We dug everything up, and it was a homestead completely encircling our house with chickens in the backyard, along with crops and trees and produce in the front yard,” recalls Jenkins. “I was trying to grow every square inch.” 

She remembers kids and adults in her community asking a lot of questions. “We did enough to make an impact and make an impression,” she says.

Soon, Jenkins realized she wanted to focus on helping people have consistent access to food with the same quality that they would find at a grocery store. She began fundraising for her venture, Fresh Future Farm, and ended up winning $25,000 in seed money through the SC Community Loan Fund’s Feeding Innovation competition. Jenkins also took her income tax refund and started a bank account for the operation, which she knew needed to include crops, a store, and a kitchen.

In 2014, Jenkins got a lease on a vacant lot from the City of North Charleston, and by May 2016, Fresh Future Farm opened a nonprofit neighborhood grocery store. 

While getting her vision off the ground, Jenkins faced various challenges, such as having enough money to cover the cost of inventory while also paying her team a fair wage. But now, the co-founder and chief farm officer (CFO) of Fresh Future Farms says that she and her team have enjoyed “so many triumphs” that she “almost can’t count them.” 

Another win is having her family involved. Initially, juggling her dream and being a parent wasn’t as challenging as she expected, because “it was just about building out the infrastructure,” recalls Jenkins. “My children at that time were school age, so I could take them to school and then come do work, and on the weekends and summers they would come and help me.”

One big factor that has made the juggle easier is her family has also been passionate about the work. Now, she’s proud to say that one of Fresh Future Farm’s co-directors is her son Adrian and her creative director is her eldest Anik. “They brought some skills to the table that are really helping us out right now,” says Jenkins.

Here, several of Jenkins’ top tips for starting a business and making a difference in your community. 

Look for Support From Local Businesses

A fellow local area business gave Jenkins a grant her team was able to use to buy some of the tree seedlings that they planted back in 2014. “I was intentional in taking before and after pictures, so people who supported us could see that we were investing their resources into making Fresh Future Farm an oasis in this neighborhood,” says Jenkins. 

She recommends staying engaged with your funders. “That’s how you develop new funders—by actually showing your work,” she says.

Lean On Your Community

Connecting with your community is integral to the success of a nonprofit, says Jenkins. Tapping into your neighbors' interest and raising awareness about what you’re doing can lead to more volunteers and donors. 

For example, Jenkins points out that a modular building was donated by a local car dealership, and she hired a neighbor across the street to paint the building and put in some custom shelves. “It was a community effort for sure,” says Jenkins.

Find a Passion You Share With Your Kids

The South Carolina-based mom encourages other parents to involve their children and start by finding something that you’re all passionate about and can work on together as a family, even if it’s just initially on a “small scale.”

She also encourages parents to think about what they can do with their kids to support their community. “Giving back is most efficient and sustainable if it's in your backyard—your surrounding neighborhood,” says Jenkins. “If the thing that you decide to do is in close range to where you live, it's gonna last longer and be more impactful to you and to the people that you're trying to support.”

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles