General Innovation Lifestyle Public Health

The Seedfolk Store | An Urban Agriculture Project

I recently had the privilege of visiting The Seedfolk Store in Rochester, New York. The store is run by the non-profit ProperRochester, Inc. which focuses on community engagement through urban agriculture with a focus on healthy food availability, youth empowerment, and entrepreneurship. The shop takes some inspiration from the book “Seedfolks”, a children’s novel by Paul Fleishman, in which an ethnically diverse community in Ohio works together to transform a vacant lot into a garden. I visited the shop as part of an activity for a medical humanities course I am currently taking, entitled “Death by Zip Code”, taught by Katrina Korfmacher, Ph. D. This course explores the importance of the environment on population health, focusing on epidemiology. The Seedfolk Store provides some vegetation in an area that is otherwise a “food desert”. These areas usually have fast food restaurants and convenience stores/corner shops. The Seedfolk Store has a refrigerator full of vegetables that are often requested in the area by neighbors. As a new organization, they are working on spreading the word about their efforts and services. While a full-fledged vegetable market would be unsustainable and unprofitable, this hybrid-shop is a great compromise and is catered to current demand. The shop gains some profits by selling granola from Small World Bakery, selling coffee for Coffee Connection, and selling potted plants and green tea bags that they make.

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The staff’s experiences with ProsperRochester, Inc. is inspiring−it is clear to me that this team is daring and ambitious. They are dedicated to teaching youth about the specifics of food planning, processing, and distribution (selling and educating). These youth are employees and volunteers who work at the Seedfolk Store, green house, and in community gardens. They are actively involved with cooking education, small-scale food production, urban farming and learning about the local food system. The Seedfolk Store provides nutrition workshops, cooking classes, soup for the general public on Tuesdays, potted plant sales at the Rochester Public Market, and a rentable kitchen space for cooks. On April 12th, the team began planting at the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, a community partner which provides ProsperRochester, Inc. with space to widen in-ground gardening. In many locations, ProsperRochester, Inc.’s concerns about lead in soil has led to their use of raised bed gardening. ProsperRochester, Inc. also works closely with In the City Off the Grid, with which they are creating an aquaponics agriculture system at the Gandhi Institute and expanding a hydroponic greenhouse on Rochester’s East Main Street.

Most inspiring is that The SeedFolk Store’s team truly lives the message of health that they promote. Three members lost large amounts of weight and they told us their secret−namely they changed their diet, eliminating refined grains and processed sugars while increasing their intake of fruits and vegetables. One of the cooks renting the kitchen is a cheerful immigrant from Africa who wrote a children’s book about nutrition. She brought her own cooking supplies to The Seedfolk Store’s kitchen and waited in the rain for her ride home. This determination to further the health of one’s community through nutrition, no matter the obstacles, is very much necessary in all urban areas in the United States. I hope to help spread the word about this initiative and soon see similar projects pop up across the country to empower youth with the ability to make healthy life choices.

To visit The Seedfolk Store online or in person:
The Seedfolk Store
540 West Main Street, Rochester, NY, 14611  
(585) 279-9943

By Sanah Ali

Sanah Ali graduated from University of Rochester in 2013 with a B.S. in Cell and Developmental Biology and minored in Arabic. She is all about innovative spirit- something that the Medical Student Press epitomizes. Sanah’s experiences include: basic science research, community service, environmental health, smoking cessation, international medicine and international relations.

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