Hey there, wanderers!
We at OTBT recently had the awesome opportunity to meet with Shelly Blades, Farm Manager & Executive Director of Lynchburg Grows, a local farm dedicated to growing healthy produce for the community, as well as providing employment to individuals with disabilities. Here’s some of what Shelly had to say about the organization, community work, and some of her favorite outdoor activities!
Our mission is to work with our community to provide access to healthy produce and afford purposeful jobs to individuals with disabilities.
We are a 6.8-acre farm with 9 historic greenhouses. We farm in 7 of those greenhouses. The produce we grow supplies our 115 member Veggie Box and goes into the community through various programs. Our main outreach programs are FreshRx, a vegetable prescription program, and the Veggie Van, a mobile market that targets the food deserts in the community.
All of that produce is grown, harvested, and processed by our 7 employees with mental and physical disabilities. We are also very fortunate to have a large community of volunteers that help us out tremendously. We really couldn't do any of this without their support!
So far this year, we have grown over 20,000 lbs of produce and donated just under half of that to those that need it most in our community. Last year, we expanded our growing space by over 75% and are working on producing more vegetables to send out to the community.
I moved to Lynchburg for school in 2003. After graduating, I moved away, came back, moved away again, and now I'm back for good.
After moving back to Lynchburg in 2008, I started volunteering at Lynchburg Grows. I fell in love with the farm, the people, and the mission. I was fortunate enough to land this sweet gig in 2015.
I love working with our team and volunteers to grow produce that goes into the community to help bridge the gap of food insecurity. Every day, I find something new about our community that I love, and knowing that I work with an organization that strives to better our community is very rewarding.
Because we are so involved in the community and are open to volunteers of all backgrounds and skill sets, I have the privilege of meeting so many interesting people, and I really love that! I've learned a lot about farming, nutrition, generosity, and activism from our volunteers and employees.
We start each day on the farm with "morning huddle" where we talk about the day's task, what needs to be done, and by what time. After that, I get to work on my second cup of coffee, do a walk through the greenhouses to ensure there are no issues that need to be addressed immediately. Then I get to work on answering e-mails and working on the farm.
I definitely enjoy being outside! Sun's out gun's out, am I right?
I really enjoy playing soccer, fly fishing, going for a hike, yoga, and spending time with my super fox man friend, Chris, and our dog, Murphy!
As far as the winter growing season goes, I'm really looking forward to our new Snowflake CSA [Community Supported Agriculture] program. It's going to be a really rad "salad" CSA that includes greens, root veggies, and local dressings. Basically, it's a CSA for a stellar salad!
Outside of work, I am really looking forward to winter hikes!
Oh, man! I have no idea! I like to wear and support designers that use sustainable practices and are conscious of how their work affects the environment. Right now I'm really into a designer out of Nashville, Elizabeth Suzanne. The cuts of her designs are boxy, classic, and easy to wear, which is what I feel most comfortable in. So I guess my personal style resembles pajamas made from nice fabric?!
For my line of work, these boots are very practical. I love that they are waterproof, warm, and have the built-in spikes! They are also really comfortable!
I can't really speak for what others should do, but I love being involved in our community! For me, it's about supporting organizations that I believe in, and being a voice for the issues that I care about.
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