Now is the Time. Memphis is the Place.

10 Ways Memphians Are Addressing Food Deserts in the Bluff City

Photo: Bailey Clark

Memphis acknowledges the need for sustainable, fresh produce in this time of overly-processed, mass-produced food.

All over the city, there are gardens geared towards creating a lasting source of locally sourced produce. When the community is putting good things in, great things come out.

Photo: South Memphis Farmers' Market

Photo: South Memphis Farmers’ Market

The South Memphis Farmers Market is dedicated to providing access to healthy and affordable foods in the South Memphis community and creating an atmosphere that contributes to the success of local growers and producers. Originating in 2010, the SMFM was the first project of South Memphis Revitalization Action Plan (SoMeRAP), a resident-led effort to transform South Memphis into one of the region’s premier urban neighborhoods of choice. Access to healthy foods in the South Memphis community is one of SoMeRAP’s highest priorities.

Photo: GrowMemphis Facebook

Photo: GrowMemphis

GrowMemphis was founded as a project of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center in 2007 with community gardening projects in Hollywood-Springdale and South Memphis joining the one in Orange Mound. These organic community gardens would provide a source of healthy food in neighborhoods, turning vacant lots into thriving centers of community. Today, GM is a certified non-profit and has 36 member garden projects (complete list here) while continuously expanding.

GM also has the Double Green$ program, providing a dollar-for-dollar match for SNAP/EBT dollars (formerly known as “food stamps”) at Memphis Area Farmers Markets to increase access to fresh, locally grown produce in low-income food insecure communities. Residents receiving SNAP benefits can swipe their EBT card in the central market booth at participating farmers market and spend like they would cash or credit. In 2011, this program began at two local farmers markets—the Cooper Young Community Farmers Market and the South Memphis Farmers Market—and has since expanded to the Church Health Center/MIFA Farmers Market, The Memphis Farmers Market, and the Evergreen Community Farmers Market. The program has contributed nearly $20,000 worth of fresh, healthy produce bought from local farmers by food-insecure Memphians.
Photo: Roots Memphis Facebook

Photo: Roots Memphis Facebook

The goal of the Farm Academy is to create and launch new sustainable farmers, to help them market, sell, and distribute their product, and to create an avenue for consumers to support the development of new farmers in our region. What we want to leave behind is more health and more wealth for everyone. All we need in order to do that is for business and consumers to but their product at a price point that keeps them in business. It’s pretty simple, but it only happens if Memphis consumers are intentional about supporting local farms. – Wes Riddle, Executive Director of Roots Memphis Farm Academy

Roots Memphis exists to create an easier route to become a farmer by training and launching new beginner farmers in the Mid-South with the vision of growing and distributing ethical and clean food in order to grow the local food system and develop our local economy. Fresh produce begins with good farming, so training local farmers directly correlates to making more fresh foods accessible. Roots’ farmers go through a 6-month intensive training course also targeting the business side of farming. In addition to training students, Roots grows natural produce on 5 acres of wide open land in Shelby Farms Park, overseeing each step of the farming process to ensure each method and crop is executed in environmentally friendly ways with the highest quality possible–meaning hyper-local, hyper-fresh, and chemical-free. Their produce is sold at two weekly farmers’ markets, as weekly pre-purchased vegetable packages, and is donated at no charge to locals in need.

The Kitchen Community is an organization across 4 cities (LA, Boulder, Chicago, and Memphis) in 4 different states (California, Colorado, Illinois, and Tennessee respectively) that is driven by the belief that gathering around the table and sharing good meals is the driving factor in connect family, friends, and community. With this in mind, TKC created Learning Gardens: learning environments that support a diverse array of lesson-plans in science, engineering, art, and math, inspiring families to cook at home and impacting youth by helping them realize fruits and vegetables are really can be great.

Girls Inc. Youth Farm Photo: Girls Inc.

Photo: Girls Inc.

Girls Inc. exists to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold, recognizing that girls still continue to encounter significant obstacles in today’s age, such as lower probabilities of finishing high school and high probabilities of body image issues, teenage pregnancy, and childhood sexual abuse. With this in mind, Girls Inc. targets these needs with center-based programs (mentoring, etc.), a STEM focused workplace exploration program, a college preparatory program, and a youth farm.

The youth farm is 9.5 acres in Frayser, TN; here girls can grow healthy produce while engaging in a social entrepreneurship, leadership, and civic training with local leaders. This drives home Girls Inc.’s character development goals: strength is achieved with a diet of fresh foods and awareness of the fluctuation of preventable diseases in the absence of a healthy diet, education is gained by learning about what it takes to grow fresh foods and engaging in critical thinking, and boldness is developed through confidence and interaction with leaders.

Photo: Bailey Clark

Photo: Bailey Clark

The UD Urban Farm is a more recent addition to Memphis’ growing list of urban farms, kicking off in March of 2016 with the lease of 1.59 acres as the District’s first run through with a self-sustaining farming operation that aims to feed the surrounding community. The idea for the garden was budding for more than a decade until garden manager Tyler Taylor moved it forward. The idea was given tangibility when Memphis Laminating Company matched each donation raised to fund the farm. All parts of the farm have been donated or resourced from local places, utilizing creative re-purposing of burlap bags from coffee suppliers, hay bales after serving their purpose at a volleyball tournament, and more. The front half of the lot is used by neighborhood residents while the back half of the lot is grown to sell. This summer, the garden has been blooming with zucchini and other squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, okra, and more. 
Photo: Urban Farms Memphis Facebook

Photo: Urban Farms Memphis

In partnership with the Binghampton Development Corporation and the Memphis Center for Food and Faith, Urban Farms Memphis is a community development project that cultivates healthy soils and a wide variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables on a 3-acre site in the heart of the city. It’s dedicated to establishing a long-lasting source of fresh, good quality, healthy food for the neighborhood. The mission at Urban Farms Memphis is to demonstrate the capacity of bio-dynamic farming to contribute to the growth of resilient city neighborhoods, healthy food access, and strong local food economies.


Carpenter Art Garden is truly dedicated to using the stability and therapy of gardening and art to create a safe place for the neighborhood youth. CAG partners with neighborhood children and adults, as well as local artists to transform a blighted lot into a place of beauty. Each Tuesday volunteers work with approximately 70 children on permanent art installations, take home art projects and tend to the garden boxes. At the Purple House, the garden’s winter retreat, the program offers tutoring, small group art lessons, mentoring and clubs every day after school. CAG’s hope is to offer the Binghampton community, especially the children, the tools to create their own “pockets of hope” through ongoing art and gardening projects.

Chard at Urban Farms Memphis Photo: Memphis Tilth Facebook

Chard at Urban Farms Memphis, Photo: Memphis Tilth

One of the goals of Memphis Tilth is to provide a forum for comprehensive approach to local food systems change, especially related to urban agriculture and good food accessibility, affordability, and awareness. In concert with our great regional and urban farms and gardens, and with our supporters, I believe Memphis Tilth will make substantial and sustainable amendments to the health of our land, people, and place.  – Dr. Noah Campbell, Director of Memphis Center for Food and Faith/Board Chairmen for Memphis Tilth

Memphis Tilth’s mission is to cultivate collective action for health of land, food, people, and place to create an economically sustainable, socially equitable, and environmentally sound local food system. MT operates through 7 distinct programs to promote a comprehensive approach toward regional, urban agriculture and local food value-chain, some of which are included in this post (eg. GrowMemphis). These programs include a food and faith initiative (religious communities and workshops aimed at working for underserved communities), a local food hub to transport fresh foods within a 150-mile radius (Bring It Food Hub), a community kitchen, community gardens, a farmers’ market incentive, a food policy council, and urban farms. MT currently serves as an overarching collective to connect Memphis efforts in creating a lasting sustainable food system for all of its communities.

Know of a group or resource that should be included? Email us at for consideration.

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