The dream of owning a farm brought Sarah Martin-Mills to start her project, Growing Hope Farm, a place of inclusion led by faith that focuses on helping others by bringing the community together.
Every day we hear about new women-led businesses and Martin-Mills takes it to the roots, literally. In 2016, she started this farming adventure.
“I wanted to serve the local community as well as the international community,” she said, “so for the local community, we opened opportunities for people who wouldn’t necessarily be [welcome] elsewhere, like women in prison and marginalized youth.”
The farm aims to offer volunteer opportunities to others with barriers to employment as well, offering an environment to learn new skills in the process.
“We had approximately eight groups of people a week … volunteer and since [COVID-19], we have had dramatically fewer people come,” she said.
As the owner of a volunteer-run not-for-profit farm that relies on volunteers to help, Martin-Mills had to make sure she would find new ways of giving back to the community during these changing times.
“There is a whole shop section on the website now where you can go and we sell our pork, our chicken and turkey,” said Martin-Mills.
She was able to improve the shopping experience and have people pick up their food after ordering online, making the process faster and easier.
This year has impacted many businesses and Growing Hope Farm was no exception, “…organizations like the school boards don’t want to take risks unless it is absolutely necessary, so it gets harder to get volunteers.”
Volunteering has been a crucial part of Growing Hope Farm since Martin-Mills originally envisioned it.
“We decided that with the farm, all proceeds would go to charity so when people come and volunteer at the farm they know they are also giving back to the community,” she explained.
The urban farm led by Martin-Mills is conveniently located in Preston, and it became popular for its goats — hosting goat yoga and providing the experience of bottle-feeding baby goats.
In past years visitors were able to come by and pick their own berries — an activity that is not available this year.
“[The farm] decided to focus on food production. We’ve actually gotten smaller, not having people over … but in some sense, we got bigger by adding more diverse livestock,” Martin-Mills said.
“We’re hoping to grow our livestock through the diversity of the meat we can sell.”
The little farm shop also has jam made from the fruits of the farm, as well as honey, maple syrup and garlic.
“If people want to help, they can come and purchase our products and spread the word about the farm,” Martin-Mills said. Guests can also make donations.
“100% of the proceeds [go] to the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) a charity that does many different things around the world and helps farmers in their communities,” proving that buying local can have a positive global impact.