$436,000 FCLF financing
Refinance and improvements
Organic farm with outreach and education for students and community members
"Thank you to the Florida Community Loan Fund for partnering with us to help preserve this farm forever. It is with your support and the support of the community that we will be able to continue to serve. The Eco-Campground in creation will allow us to host a variety of new experiences for the community to enjoy and put us on a path towards financial sustainability as well. We cannot say thank you enough – for your support and assistance, and for helping us through the process. See you on your farm!" – Chris Kenrick, Board President
Sweetwater Organic Community Farm is a nonprofit community-supported urban organic farm and environmental education center in Tampa. The organization’s mission is to build community through education, food accessibility, and by being a model of appropriate land stewardship and sustainable agricultural techniques.
Established in 1995, Sweetwater is Florida's oldest community supported agriculture farm. Located on 6 acres, the farm offers educational and food accessibility programs that help build the relationships, trust, and interdependence needed for strong communities. Programs include:
- A weekly farmer's market with produce from Sweetwater and other local, organic growers
- A Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) membership program
- Educational field trips including farm tours
- Training and apprenticeships on organic farming methods
- Workshops, outdoor movies, seasonal events, and more.
In March 2019, Sweetwater had closed and was a week away from being sold to a developer. The community came together to save the farm, raising over $100,000 in loans and donations – the majority from individuals. With financing from Florida Community Loan Fund, Sweetwater Organic Community Farm will repay these loans and continue down the path of “Your Forever Farm.” This will happen when the farm doesn’t owe anyone any money, is in a community land trust, and has long-term sustainable revenue sources.
Weekly farmers' markets at Sweetwater Farm offer fresh, farm-raised produce for sale, as well as fruits and vegetables from other local organic farms. SNAP and EBT customers are welcomed at the market, with a Fresh Access Bucks discount available where SNAP recipients can get $40 in Florida-grown vegetables and fruits for $20.
On-site apprenticeships and internships offer training in organic farming methods, and along with these programs there is a large interest from individuals in short-term residence on the farm. For this purpose, Sweetwater has buildings on the farm that provide overnight accommodations for program participants, and an on-site tiny cabin has been converted to an Airbnb. To meet the increasing demand for on-site stays, Sweetwater will also use the FCLF loan to develop an urban campground that will feature solar and other sustainable features, creating an agro-tourism / eco-tourism opportunity that does not currently exist in the area. Campers will be encouraged to volunteer, but not required. The campground will also provide space for conferences, retreats, weddings, and more; and will become an additional income source for the farm.
Sweetwater Organic Community Farm provides the freshest possible organic vegetables and herbs for hundreds of Tampa Bay residents each year. Sweetwater currently reaches over 7,000 students in a tri-county area. Expansion plans include increasing that number to 10,000 students, plus serving an additional 3,000 through workshops, classes, and dinners; and 5,000 at the farmers’ market.
Pictured above, a field of organic vegetables. Below, a day at the farmers' market.