Fresh Life Organics
Interview with Jeremy Peaches of Fresh Life Organics
What kind of farm are you? What do you grow and how do you grow it (organic, anything like that)?
Jeremy Peaches is CEO of FreshLifeOrganic (FLO), as well as a teacher, and advocate for underserved communities in Houston. He uses organic and sustainable practices, and grows seasonal foods, like warm and cold weather crops. They also use aquaponics and hydroponics, leafy greens (indoor greenhouse type, controlling the environment). According to their website, FreshLifeOrganic was created in 2016 "to provide agriculture assistance to urban and rural areas. Our farm was created as a response to our communities need for fresh local veggies. Over the last few years we have expanded and produced multiple farms and gardens from Houston to now around the world." FreshLifeOrganic is also an agriculture consulting service, providing help with everything from sustainable agriculture to marketing to greenhouse building and planning.
How would you describe your connections to the community (Urban Harvest community, or other local ones)?
Farmers markets are one of the first and main ways that they directly engage with the local community. But FLO goes beyond markets in their connections. They've recently started working with a coop as a way to help and team up with other small farmers. Small farms can produce food, Jeremy notes, but may not have the infrastructure or support to be able to pack, process, and distribute it, which is how these cooperatives help out. He sees these collaborative relationships as very important. Jeremy also considers himself an advocate not only for these small urban farmers but for urban neighborhoods and food deserts generally. He does this by working behind the scenes on policy for the city helping small urban farmers, something he has been doing for some years now. He believes this current moment is full of a lot of opportunity, especially with this new generation of farmers and gardeners.
How have you been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
COVID-19 had an impact in the beginning because everything closed, including farmers markets, and restaurants, making them lose those revenue streams. Nobody made money for the first month and a half, since it all went elsewhere. People who were connected to Amazon.com made out well, for instance. The result for many small farmers was that they were really squeezed financially. But as previously mentioned, some local food system connections, such as ones with The Common Market Distributor, pictured above, helped everyone out during those hard times. But now, the pandemic has done a 180 in terms of its effect on small farmers. Jeremy noted how more people want to know where their food comes, and there is more interest than ever in creating a more local food system.
What would you like the local community to know about your farm? What can the local community do to support your farm?
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Jeremy is thinking big picture and wants the local community to do so too. He thinks the Houston Farm Movement has a real opportunity to be a model for the future of food systems, especially with climate change and sustainability. But he emphasizes how this won't happen unless we all collaborate to create these new farm systems. This means not only the grassroots but bigger players like University of Houston should be included. Nonprofits like Urban Harvest have their important place, too, and even business, but it all has to be connected back to the grassroots and the community. Jeremy especially calls on local universities who could be partnering with small local farms to do research on new food system models. Instead, they are often doing research elsewhere, even internationally. They're not doing research in their community where they could have a real impact.
A "pandemic garden" that FLO helped to make a reality through their agricultural consulting services
How did you get into farming? What do you like or love about being a farmer?
Jeremy said that farming is in his blood, handed down from past generations of enslaved ancestors who used to work a peach farm in the American South. Jeremy was born in Mississippi and says he has always had a passion for farming. It's something he has been working on for a long time in many different ways. He went to college at Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) and graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture/Animal Science. Over the years, he has worked at the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, the United States Forest Service, DuPont's Agriculture Division, and PVAMU International Goat Research Center. Sustainable farming and teaching what he knows about it has now become a business for him, although he says he would do it for free if there weren't bills to pay. It's really all about feeding people and teaching others, so that they can pass it on themselves.