Young people in the Ruby Grow Program are social enterprise business partners learning to run their own organic market vegetable production business. We provide entrepreneurship support toward quickly scaling their systems and increasing their production capacity. We partner with Sprouting Farms to coordinate our production and sales with their aggregation systems into wholesale market channels as the volume of their produce aggregated with others is able to consistently meet the demands of the wholesale market. Students will sell produce to Sprouting Farms partners, as well as to our own Hub Cafe and summer camps. Sprouting Farms assist us in determining which products have high value and large unmet demand. We then create product specifications and train our producers, reducing their risk while increasing their production capacity. Crops include cooking greens, salad greens, carrots, radishes, tomatoes, and watermelons, produced in high tunnels as well as outdoor fields.
The land for the project is leased from Ralph Burns in Hillsboro, who is contributing both the value of the lease and his own expertise as a member of the project’s advisory council. The farming operations at this property are named “Ruby Grow”, in memory of Ralph’s mother, the late Ruby Burns. This is an opportunity for local young people to develop leadership and community engagement as they create pathways to stay here in Pocahontas County, building a secure economic future for themselves and their communities. In this program, curriculum from High Rocks’ other entrepreneurship programs at the Hub in Lewisburg, the Café and Tech Express, are replicated and adapted to the agricultural business model.