with a degree in organic agriculture.
Half of the classes will help participants develop entrepreneurial skills and connect them with end markets like restaurants. That's an important part of the puzzle because it's not enough to grow food, it's critical to know how you can do it and make money, Naumoff said.
"We're actually assisting the market function act at a faster rate than it would evolve," she said. "We're matching supply with demand."
Exactly what will be grown in the first year has not yet been determined, although there are some obvious no-nos. For example, "we wouldn't recommend that any of our agripreneurs grow onions because you could never be cost competitive with that," she said.
"We have had a panel discussion with restaurateurs. Overwhelmingly what we hear is, 'We want heirloom varieties and we want relationships with our farmers.' That implies the restaurateurs want to go out and say, 'No, I want this variety, not that one,' and 'I want to observe your farming practices,' and 'I want to decrease my supply chain, which increases the freshness of the product.' "
The space near the corner of Washington Street West and Ohio Street is being designed by a group of Davis & Elkins College students as part of a $5,000 grant. "The idea is to link higher education faculty and students with community initiatives," Naumoff said. "Two weeks ago all of those students were in Charleston to measure and map the site. We had several experts come in and deliver content material as food for thought for the design. The students are in the process of developing that design, which will be done on Oct. 31."
The students will build raised beds and other features of the outdoor classroom garden on Nov. 10.
The second phase of SUAI will be the construction of an urban agriculture accelerator on a nearly two-acre lot on Rebecca Street owned by the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority.
Naumoff explained the concept: "If you've gone through SUAI and you're dedicated to thinking this could be your sole revenue source and you just need more land or an extended growing season with some equipment like a high tunnel or a value-added product like salsa, this phase will allow agripreneurs to lease space to increase production.
"We're thinking that yes, there really could be an opportunity for someone to think about, for example, establishing a solid contract to supply micro greens year-round with a local restaurant like the Bluegrass Kitchen."
The urban agriculture accelerator is envisioned as a mixed-use space, partly devoted to gardens, partly devoted to a "food forest" with features like an orchard and fruit-producing bushes, and partly devoted to a student interactive zone.
The SUAI is a component of Vision 2030, the Charleston Area Alliance's long-range plan for the Kanawha Valley. For more information email Naumoff at CNaum...@charlestonareaalliance.org or call her at 304-340-4253.
Contact writer George Hohmann at busin...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.