The same thought popped into Cynthia King's head every time she walked by a vacant lot filled with dead grass, next to a church in her Berkeley, Calif., neighborhood: Why in the world aren't they growing something there?
Soon she had the idea for an "edible churchyard," reminiscent of Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard project. The concept evolved and is about to become a reality, as King plans to launch as many as six faith farms this year in collaboration with a local church and nonprofits. Congregations will have the final word on what to do with the food, but King now envisions a larger network of small urban farms being developed, including schools, homes, and nonprofits, where the produce grown in the gardens will be aggregated, distributed, and sold at a profit.
King says the idea may not have evolved if she hadn't attended an accelerator program from Local Food Lab. The company helps people develop business plans for food and farm start-ups that are both financially sustainable and environmentally responsible, with a big-picture goal of becoming the de-facto global resource for local food entrepreneurship. (Similar to incubators, which can last years, accelerators are usually intensive, boot-camp-like). For a $2,500 fee, Local Food Lab participants receive six weeks of mentoring and feedback on food and farm concepts that address sustainability challenges in the food system. They finish with a complete business plan and a chance to pitch their ideas to a group of investors and stakeholders on the final day.