South Side Farms, located at the corner of West End Boulevard and Walnut in Cape Girardeau, will begin ground clearing this week, weather permitting.
The urban farm, housing, childcare and education project received unanimous approval from the Cape Girardeau City Council on November 15, 2021. Championed by Saint Francis Healthcare System, South Side Farms will operate as an independent Missouri 501-C3 nonprofit with support from the local community, residents and leaders of south Cape.
“South Side Farms will address population health issues, improve social determinants of health and equip our community for powerful generational change,” said Jimmy Wilferth, Vice President of Foundation and Marketing at Saint Francis and project leader. “It is exciting to see how the plan has come together, primarily with the input and direction from those it will impact most. Over the next 18 months, we will see the project come to life for the residents of south Cape, by the residents of south Cape.”
Designated a state “Opportunity Zone” and “Federal Food Desert,” there are no grocery stores south of Highway 74, leading to food insecurity for many residents. South Side Farms will primarily address expanding access to healthy, nutritious food through an urban farming operation, complete with fresh food (hydroponics, aquaponics, field crops, eggs, honey and milk), farmer’s market/grocery, restaurant, food incubator and more.
Modeled after successful urban farms across the country, the project will also address sustainable employment, higher education, safer living environment, childcare and homeownership (equity).
“Our Mission compels us to care for others outside the walls of our Healthcare System,” said Dr. Maryann Reese, President and Chief Executive Officer of Saint Francis. “We feel this project is a tangible expression of our Mission and Ministry, and an excellent opportunity to improve the health and wellbeing of the communities we are called to serve.”
The South Side Farms Planned Development project consists of many elements, including mixed-income housing (South Side Village) in collaboration with the Missouri Housing Development Commission (MHDC) and Community Partnership of Southeast Missouri (single and multi-family homeownership). The project’s MHDC housing application was one of 99 applications submitted and chosen as the number one project in the State.
Other vital services included in the project include an early years childcare facility (ages 0-3) in collaboration with the East Missouri Action Agency; healthcare and technical skills training in collaboration with the Cape Girardeau Public Schools, Career and Technology Center and Junior Achievement; police substation on the south side of Cape Girardeau in collaboration with the Cape Girardeau Police Department (location to be determined); and quality, affordable healthcare through Saint Francis Clinic South Cape (location to be determined).
The long-term project includes fundraising and volunteer opportunities and complementary partnerships. “The definition of ‘farming’ is to grow and cultivate, period. From nutritious food to priceless lives, our plan is to add partners who want to ‘show up’ and be a part of something really special and life changing, who want to be a part of South Side Farms,” said Wilferth.