Lynchburg Grows Needs Help From Community to Sustain Greenhouses

Lynchburg, VA - Lynchburg Grows, the nonprofit urban farm in the Hill City, is moving forward. Leaders and volunteers held their Family First Fair tour Saturday on the 6.8 acre land.

Lynchburg Grows' mission is twofold: To help disadvantaged and disabled people, and to develop community gardens in the city.

Founder and Executive Director Michael Van Ness says the goal is to make Lynchburg Grows financially self-sustainable. They've been working on a two-phase capital campaign in order to make that happen.

Van Ness says they got the funds for phase 1, which will allow them to restore three of the oldest greenhouses that were almost destroyed in a bad snow storm a couple of years ago. It will also buy a rainwater harvesting system.

But in order to really survive on its own without corporate donors, the farm has to grow and sell produce year-round.

"We literally have about two months each year, where our production is pretty much stalled," Van Ness said. "We're asking the community's help to raise $262,000."

The money will allow them to buy biomass boilers that will burn woodchips and heat the water during the cold months.

"And we will pump the water under our raised beds. And so we'll be heating the soil, which allows to grow lettuce and even roses in the winter," Van Ness explained.

He says events like the family fair help spread the word about their mission. It also teaches people about the importance of local agriculture.

That includes people like Lyn Kraje, who started buying from Lynchburg Grows a year ago. She has eight grandchildren and says the garden is a great way to show them first-hand where their food comes from.

"I'm a big believer, especially in small children, that if they plant food or if they plant plants, then they're going to eat their vegetables better," Kraje said.

The farm offers the CSA program, or Community Supported Agriculture. Each week, those who sign up receive a bag of produce grown in the greenhouses.

Ness says it's a win-win for everyone.

"It's a way families can eat healthy, they can get affordable locally grown produce. And it's a way to support a nonprofit whose mission is to help disabled and disadvantaged individuals in the city," Ness said.

Learn more about Lynchburg Grows and its mission on their website.