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Food Oasis Update: Shakespeare and Seed Funding

FO_AugustaWhen David Young was preparing to pitch his project to a group of community members at the Georgia Food Oasis meeting at the Jessye Norman School of the Arts, he knew he had to make an impression.

Young is the founder of the Hobby Farmers Association of the Central Savannah River Area–an organization driven to engage and educate the public and government officials about the benefits of backyard gardening–and a frequent attendee at Georgia Organics-led Food Oasis meetings in Augusta.

Launched in the fall of 2015, the goal of our Georgia Food Oasis work is for residents, farmers, nonprofits, businesses, educators and health care professionals to decide on a common vision for their community’s food future and then build programs, or nurture existing initiatives, that bring that vision to life.

Young’s project–-Sibley Soilworks–-was in the running for a round of funding from Food Oasis, but first he had to convince the community that his project was worthy of a microgrant over two other community-driven projects.

The project originated after learning that the city of Augusta pays a company to extract hyacinth plants from the canal and take them elsewhere for disposal. The Sibley Soilworks project would build a facility near the canal so the city could dump hyacinths there for volunteers to turn into compost. Subsequently, residents could use it in their gardens—enhancing the on-going Raised Beds Campaign in nearby Harrisburg, which has installed over 150 raised beds in yards across town, while saving taxpayer money.

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David Young performing “Ode to Hyacinth.” Click here to see the full performance.

So Young channeled his inner Shakespeare and wrote a poem he called “Ode to Hyacinth.”

His delivery sparked delight from the crowd, earning a rousing applause. Young had them right where he wanted them. He gave his pitch, earned another round of applause, and took a seat to wait for the voting to ensue.

It was a tough contest – another project included creating a food hub in Augusta that could be used to support on-going efforts to increase access to fresh, local produce, with the funding going towards a feasibility study to determine the best model for Augusta. Another project would market existing nutritional education events put on by the students of the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.

Ultimately, participants chose Sibley Soilworks.

After the pitches, which were preceded by a delicious vegan dinner courtesy of Denise Tucker, owner of Humanitree House Juice Joint and Gallery, Georgia Organics’ Food Oasis Coordinator Suzanne Girdner handed Young a check for an additional $2,500.

“I love getting up in front of people and having fun,” said Young.

“Getting the seed money to build our composting project is the first step towards helping the community make some raised bed gardens, which is the foundation of the Food Oasis, so people can start building their own gardens and growing their own food.”

Even better: Young wasn’t the only winner. Though he received a larger share of the funding available, every project received financial assistance to get going.

“The Augusta Food Oasis community has been working hard over the past nine months to develop Eat, Cook, Grow related projects and initiatives to expand and enhance local, fresh food access,” said Girdner. “Tonight we got to celebrate the community and their collective power while providing a small level of funding to assist them in bringing their visions into reality.  It’s an honor to work alongside them on our Food Oasis journey.”

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