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2501 Grants Help Springfield Community Gardens Promote Regenerative Agriculture in Local Communities

By Lillie Caudle Valdez

Springfield Community Gardens (SCG) in Springfield, Missouri has been successfully operating and growing since 2010 with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) 2501 Program.

Since its inception Springfield Community Gardens has received several 2501 grants, most recently in 2022. With the aid of this grant, the organization has expanded into 17 community gardens, three urban farms, a community food forest, and a test kitchen that serve different communities surrounding the Springfield, Missouri area.

Springfield Community Gardens offers free workshops and one-on-one mentoring for veterans and underserved groups. These trainings are designed to expand their knowledge of basic crop farming practices and business development. Participants learn how to build and manage their own small-scale farms using the best regenerative agriculture and agricultural business practices.

Regenerative agriculture focuses heavily upon sustainable farming practices, such as recycling farm waste and taking actions to support long-term soil health. As soil health improves, it becomes more resilient to extreme weather, pests, and pathogens.

SCG prioritizes soil health and pursues a holistic approach to farming. For example, the organization works closely with communities they serve to promote certified naturally grown gardens, and all their farms are Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) certified.

Founding Executive Director Maile Auterson said, “When you practice regenerative agriculture, you’re also taking care of the people and the animals.” This is her favorite part of the job because the process builds strong relationships not only with the other farmers and ranchers but also with the land and animals that live in those environments.

The 2501 grant has also enabled SCG to provide consistency with their staffing, creating opportunities to reach more communities that would appreciate training in small-scale farming. SCG has also been able to expand their community 4-H program to reach kids throughout neighboring counties.

Veteran and single mother Molly Fralick appreciates the education and technical assistance that she received from SCG, support that helped her start her own food business and accomplish her dream of operating her own small-scale fiber farm. She said, “I am forever grateful for their services and support for beginning farmers like myself.”

2501 Program grants are designed to help underserved and veteran farmers participate in USDA programs equitably. USDA is accepting applications until July 5.

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