DXC and Feed Dayton team up to create area's first urban farm training center.

DAYTON – A few weeks ago, it was just an empty lot beside an empty building; not much good to anybody. But in a few weeks, what was an eyesore and wasteland will transform into a source of food and education for Dayton residents.

“[Our purpose] is kind of two-fold,” said Feed Dayton Director Ken Carman. “The one is to grow high-nutrition food locally for the hungry. And then the complimentary element is we're also wanting to educate, train and equip people to either become urban farmers or at least to have backyard gardens.”

Carman, along with fellow activists Treva Jenkins and Shandah Brannen, formed Feed Dayton in 2008 with that purpose in mind. They set about making contact with city and county officials and other authorities, looking for ways to make their ideals realities. For a while, they made some progress, but it wasn't until the Dayton Christian Center (DXC) got in touch with them.

DXC was in the process of creating a new wellness program and was looking for partners in the effort. Someone who knew Jenkins suggested she contact Drew Formentini, UD Community Graduate Fellow posted to DXC through the Fitz Center. They got together to discuss plans for a site DXC was considering as its East Side offices and the relationship grew.

The lot was not large enough, Carman said, to be a major production site, but he immediately saw the potential in it as a test and training location. The result is the DXC/Feed Dayton Urban Farming Program Test Site and Training Center.

The center is located at 1820 E. Fifth Street next to the former Emergency Services Program (ESP) building. Next to the building is an approximately 5,000 sq ft plot of ground that has recently been cleared and tilled and is in the process of being planted.

“DXC is our primary collaborator,” Carman said in a recent interview. He added that the help and encouragement given by DXC in the early stages has been vital to the small group, including help in structuring and creating their own non-profit organization.

DXC Volunteer and Community Outreach Coordinator Betsy Fox adds that the relationship has been very good for DXC as well.

“We've provided the land, the building and the experience (in non-profit management) and I'm helping to find grants to try to find some sort of funding to make it more sustainable,” Fox said. “And putting together two community groups who can function on their own, but that can function better together and we can accomplish a lot more by doing it together.”

“It's synergy,” Carman said.

Fox added that it gives DXC another way for its volunteers to contribute to the community and to the mission of the organization. That mission is “Enriching and Empowering Lives One Choice at a Time,” she said, and this extends DXC's reach beyond its own walls and out into the community.

The project is attracting notable attention.

“Ohio State is wanting us to put together an audience for them to provide nutrition classes and we would be able to hold those at that site,” Carman said. Plus, on its own as well as with DXC's help, Feed Dayton is in the process of setting up partnerships with other organizations for distribution and other functions.

Carman said Dayton has an opportunity to be a leader, not only in Ohio but in the nation with this program.

“The difference with this program over other urban farming programs is that this one concentrates on high nutrition instead of market value,” Carman said. “We'll have some crops for resale to help support the program, but the bulk of what we will produce will be crops that are high in nutrition.”

Crops such as kale, collards, beans, peas and tomatoes will be the staple crops at the sites, he said.

Carman said his vision doesn't stop there, however. There's been another developing along with it.

“We live in a convenient-space society,” Carman said. “Farming and gardening, even gardening in people's yards, in suburbs, go way back. While our society has changed, gardening hasn't, much, so our focus is to make gardening convenient so our convenience-based society can embrace it, and we do that through utilizing community resources.”

Carman said that the resources available in Dayton are tremendous and he hopes to develop that aspect of the program.

“The community resources are a huge aspect of it because we don't have to go outside (the community) to buy fertilize, we don't have to buy compost, and we won't have to buy much of any weed control and watering needs are minimized,” Carman said.

Planting is due to begin this week (Apr 5-10) and Carman expects to be able to harvest up to 5,000 pounds of food per year from the test site. It will probably be far more at a site that is developed strictly for farm production.

The food from the East Fifth Street site will more that likely go to neighborhood residents and to small food programs operated by churches in the area, Carman and Fox said.

Feed Dayton is a local community action organization dedicated to developing urban farming in order to provide a more sustainable and healthy food supply for those in Dayton who need it. They can be contacted by phone at 937-430-4524 or through their website, feeddayton.org

The Dayton Christian Center is an 88 year old community action organization founded by the National Baptist Ministries, USA and is one of 19 such community centers nationwide. For more information on DXC and its programs, call 937-275-7174.

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