Middle Tennessee is home to country music, civil war history, and perhaps unexpectedly, a community of small farms. Locally owned, regenerative farms dot the landscape of Nashville’s pop culture and rolling hills. You see their produce around town at farmer’s markets, at independent grocers, and featured on restaurant menus. While many of us take fresh produce for granted, families in need often have limited access to nutritious meals, especially fresh produce. Tera Ashley, the Vegetable Manager at Caney Fork Farms, aims to change that one family at a time. She recently launched a non-profit, Sweet Radish, whose mission is to “serve both small, regenerative farms and underserved communities by matching locally-grown CSA vegetable shares with refugee and immigrant families in Nashville, TN.”
Tera didn’t always know farming would be her life path, but it became clear through a series of experiences. Inspired by food-related books and documentaries like Forks Over Knives and Food Inc., she gained a new awareness of the food system, where it could be improved, and the importance of nutrition. After graduating from Trevecca Nazarene University, the University opened the J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice and she joined on as an AmeriCorps*Vista. During her two years with the program, she worked as an organic urban farmer and became actively involved in social justice initiatives related to food. This experience made her realize farming was her calling — she wanted to farm in a way that grew healthy soil and produced nutritious food.
Through farming, Tera saw an opportunity to fill in a gap in the current food system. Combining her love of organic farming with the desire to provide a consistent source of produce to those experiencing food insecurity, she created a non-profit called Sweet Radish. Sweet Radish purchases CSA shares from small, local farms and delivers them to immigrant and refugee families in Nashville. The families are identified with the help of Sweet Radish’s partner organization, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC). Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a tool that allows people to invest in farms by purchasing a share. The genius of Sweet Radish is its support of the CSA structure. By purchasing shares from local farms, Sweet Radish is supporting Nashville’s small farms while consistently feeding those in need in one fell swoop. Sweet Radish’s values shine in its details. The CSA shares are purchased from farms that utilize regenerative farming practices which focus on growing and replenishing healthy soil and supporting local biodiversity. Simultaneously, Sweet Radish is creating an uplifting experience for those receiving Sweet Radish boxes. Sweet Radish boxes don’t contain unsellable leftover crops which are so often found in food banks. Instead, families receive weekly boxes of just-picked, beautiful produce like any other CSA member.
Mealtimes can serve as nourishment for the body and soul, especially for families facing the challenge of acclimating to a new country. Sweet Radish was launched with a particular focus on the immigrant and refugee community, who are known for their resilience and rich cooking heritage. This focus increases the likelihood that the produce will be eaten, reducing potential food waste. As Sweet Radish grows, their vision is to help feed every Nashvillian who doesn’t have access to fresh produce.
Help Sweet Radish grow and further their mission to support regenerative farmers and our neighbors in need. Stay up-to-date on all the good they’re achieving within our community on Instagram and Facebook. Donate using the QR code below to help them reach more families in need.