By Veronica Clark, Center for Industrial Services
One man. One goal. One mission. During his 34-plus years at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), James Bunch traveled the world helping other countries maximize their crop production. He saw firsthand how these programs provided the individuals with a sense of hope and how it helped them regain their authentic voices.
This led Bunch, in 2016, to bringing the concept home to the United States. He set out on his journey to train socially disadvantaged youth and veterans on how to start a business in specialty crops.
Through his leadership and hard work, the Spirit of Farming was established in Memphis. The Spirit of Farming is a one-day workshop that educates veterans, faith-based organizations and disadvantaged youth on the USDA’s programs and services. Their mission is to inspire and motivate faith-based organizations to take a proactive role in assisting USDA with its outreach initiatives to historically under-served groups and individuals to increase their successful participation in USDA programs.
The Spirit of Farming strives to affect a paradigm shift in the way that Memphis and communities alike approach farming. This initiative establishes relationships among those in the non-profit, private, and public entities with community residents. These partnerships promote innovation, good health, and productivity for those who are socially and economically disadvantaged.
The Tennessee Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) is operated by the University of Tennessee Center for Industrial Services, an agency of the UT Institute for Public Service. PTAC Consultant Russell Toone helped Spirit of Farming with tapping into federal procurement opportunities. Through the assistance of Tennessee PTAC, Bunch has received assistance on registrations, certifications, and government marketing strategies. Recently, PTAC assisted the Spirit of Farming in applying and successfully securing a $10,000 grant with USDA’s National Resource Conservation. The Spirit of Farming provides individuals seeking a way to uplift themselves through accountability, responsibility, and opportunity.
“Urban agriculture will never match the production capacity of its rural counterparts by bringing into production suitable vacant lots,” Bunch said. “We can dramatically increase the number of individuals as farmers. We can give those who are socially and economically disadvantaged a chance at the American Dream.”