A soon-to-open nonprofit urban farm on the south side of Indianapolis aims to give formerly-incarcerated women a chance to "craft a future story" while combating the city’s food desert issue. Bellfound Farm spans 17 acres and allows young women to run an urban farm while receiving counseling, coaching and business training. Founders Nekoma Burcham and Alena Jones, who are Women’s Fund of Central Indiana NEXT Fellows, say Bellfound coaches will continue to support the women after they leave the farm to help them earn a degree or certificate and find long-term employment and housing.
During an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Burcham described the services the women will receive.
Plans call for the farm to donate and sell harvested produce in food desert areas. Jones says one of the most satisfying aspects of the project is helping to solve a community problem with women who "the community has considered a problem." In all, she says the farm will produce more than 50 types of crops, including fruits, vegetables and flowers.
The first participants are scheduled to arrive at the farm soon. Organizers say as many as 20 women at a time can live at Bellfound Farm for up to two years. Burcham and Jones, who are working with organizations including the Marion County Diversion Program, expect the first five women to arrive in September 2018, after they make facility renovations.
The funding is coming primarily from the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana. Bellfound received a $250,000 grant from the organization, thanks in part to funds raised from February’s "A Moderated Conversation With Former First Lady Michelle Obama" in Indianapolis. Ultimately, Burcham and Jones hope the farm can generate enough income to be self-sustainable.
In addition to the farm itself, Jones and Burcham plan to use the funding to create retail space, a demonstration kitchen and community meeting space.