Clara White Mission Partners with Private Sector, DEP to Help Those in Need

Oct. 16, 2014

~Donation enables mission to feed the homeless and teach valuable agricultural skills~


Pictured from left to right: Dan MacDonald, Councilwoman Denise Lee’s Executive Assistant; Doug Whitehead, Republic Services; DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr.; Aaron Zahn, President and CEO of BCR Environmental; and Ju’Coby Pittman, President and CEO of Clara White Mission.

For more than a century the Clara White Mission has served Jacksonville’s underprivileged residents through its many programs, including feeding and job training. Today, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection joined BCR Environmental and Republic Services as they presented the Clara White Mission with a donation of three truckloads of ultra-clean compost for the mission’s newest program, White Harvest Farms. U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown was also in attendance and addressed the audience.

White Harvest Farms is Clara White Mission’s newest program that was developed to provide fresh food options in a community in which fresh, affordable food is difficult to obtain. The on-site farming grounds have been established to offer job training and creation for homeless and low-income veterans. The innovative, grassroots approach will promote healthier lifestyles to encourage better nutritional choices through access to fresh fruits and vegetables grown at White Harvest Farms. Their goal is to farm 150 acres of land in the next three years to improve and sustain both the physical and economic health of the community.

Through staff at the Northeast District, led by Director Greg Strong, DEP first began working with the mission regarding the White Harvest Farms site back in 2007 and 2008 as part of a brownfields project to cleanup property associated with the downtown mission. As the partnership continued, DEP staff began the process of assisting the mission in establishing the White Harvest Farms in 2012. At that time, the site of the farm was a vacant lot, which formerly had impacts unrelated to the Clara White Mission’s involvement in this project. DEP’s Northeast District staff were able to work with the mission to safely clean up the farm so that it can now be used to train residents in the fields of agriculture and gardening.

“Our efforts to work with the mission to clean up the farm is at the heart of DEP’s core beliefs – to use outreach and educational events as the first step in preserving and protecting Florida’s environment,” said DEP Secretary T. Vinyard Jr. “I applaud both BCR Environmental and the Clara White Mission for the wonderful work they are doing for our community and our environment.”

After working with both BCR Environmental and the Clara White Mission, employees at DEP’s Northeast District saw an opportunity to connect the two entities. From there, a public-private partnership developed, resulting in this donation.

“DEP’s Northeast District is excited about this special opportunity to promote the beneficial reuse of resources and to support an outstanding non-profit organization in our community,” said Northeast District Director Greg Strong. “We are proud to play a constructive role in supporting conservation and responsible practices and to help local organizations find collaborative environmental solutions.”

BCR Environmental Corporation is an environmental solutions company transforming the way municipalities treat and manage biosolids and organic wastes. BCR has several industry-revolutionizing technologies that convert organic waste streams into safe, valuable and marketable end products. Republic Services provided the green waste that is used to blend to make the compost material.

“BCR is very pleased to provide reusable material (compost) with a ‘slow nutrient release’ property to the Clara White Mission’s White Harvest Farms project,” said BCR Environmental President and CEO Aaron Zahn. “This material is 100 percent natural and eliminates the need for expensive and inferior commercial fertilizers. The material also reduces water consumption by approximately 16,000 gallons per acre, per year and minimizes nutrients leaching into groundwater due to its water retention properties. The White Harvest Farms will most definitely be ahead of the curve from a conservation and ecological perspective.”

“This innovative partnership will allow White Harvest Farms to build capacity, while providing access to fresh product maintained and grown in the neighborhood for families that live in this food desert community,” said Ju’Coby Pittman, Clara White Mission president and CEO.

The Clara White Mission has a proven track record for sustaining its programs. The mission researched the viability of an urban farm and found it to have the potential of becoming revenue generating. The revenue generated from the White Harvest Farm will assist its efforts in ensuring the sustainability of the mission for generations to come.

For more information on the Clara White Mission’s White Harvest Farms, click here.

For more information on BCR Environmental, click here.

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