Urban Farming with Kirsten Simmons
A nine acre Mennonite Church Farm sits right outside of East Atlanta Village down Bouldercrest, where they house chickens, goats, and sheep. The church works with nonprofits, high school and college students, and disenfranchised youth who are interested in sustainable urban farming. Insert Kirsten Simmons, a former corporate business analyst, who has a radical new business model for supporting urban farms.
Simmons grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina but didn’t get interested in urban farming until she got into an accident that led to a concussion in 2012. At that point she had to take a break from her day job behind a desk because of the adverse effects it was having on her. “Since I'm not the type of person to sit still and heal quietly, I decided to put in a few garden beds in a clearing off a fitness trail near my house,” she told Plasma via email. Eight months later, a little project she started to ease her restless mind had turned into eight beds, some berry bushes, fruit trees, and a water collection system.
Her community began to take notice, and soon teachers were bringing their students on short field trips to explore the community garden. “Fast forward two years and I am somehow leading this community garden, which has added another eight beds and a chicken coop,” Simmons mused. But then the day of reckoning came. Despite all of her hard work and even a grant from the city, she didn’t own the land she had cultivated and once the owner found her renegade garden they were not too pleased. It has since been paved over, but the spark has not died from Kiersten Simmons passion for seeing sustainable urban farms flourish in Atlanta.
Simmons is now putting her expertise in business analytics into the spread of urban farms. Her company Ecosystem Farms is the first of its kind, a business model which she is calling franchise farming. “Ideally, we'll be able to offer new farmers support in the form of financing, consulting and documentation within a franchise framework to make farms a common sight in urban areas,” she explained. They provide support to new farms through a library of well documented potential revenue streams. “Each farm needs to be its unique space, but if farmers could start with a portfolio of ideas and support as they build out their business, they would have a much higher chance of success and local food would be much more readily available,” she told us. Once the farm is established, it is then required to help support a new farmer both financially and informationally every five years, and, if everything goes to plan this will allow for exponential growth according to Simmons.
Kirsten Simmons is selling her current produce through a CSA. The fall CSA starts October 1st and will run for twelve weeks. You can contact her via email at email@example.com or phone at 404-919-4422 with any questions. She is alway looking for people that want to get their hands dirty so shoot her an email if you’re interested in volunteering.