Bringing Tilth to Our Soil

By Edible Memphis | November 14, 2015
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Memphis Tilth

Local Food Organizations Seek Greater Impact Using the ‘Tilth’ Model.


Four local food system organizations have banded together to help bring the ‘Tilth Movement’ closer to Memphis through an innovative partnership with Seattle Tilth. ‘Tilth’ implies the richness and quality of soil for growing as well as the cultivation of wisdom and spirit in a community. Seattle Tilth is a widely recognized organization leading the discussion and action surrounding local food initiatives in the Seattle area. They are one of the oldest members of what began in 1975 as a loose-knit group of local food and environment advocates in the Pacific Northwest.

The organizers of Memphis Tilth have invited Andrea Dwyer, Executive Director of Seattle Tilth, to Memphis for a presentation on the new partnership this Wednesday, November 18th from 11:30 am to 12:30 at the Memphis Leadership Foundation. Anyone with an interest in the organization or the movement is invited to attend.

Seattle Tilth now has a multi-million dollar budget, staff and programs covering everything from after-school cooking classes for kids to a CSA program, large-scale urban farms, and composting training. They are also hoping to spread the richness of their programs to other like-minded communities and the partnership with the new Memphis Tilth organization will result in a model for how the Tilth Movement can connect with other cities and collectively work towards food systems change.

We had the opportunity, via email, to ask Carole Colter, Executive Director of GrowMemphis (one of the four local Tilth partners), about the organization and the road ahead for Memphis Tilth.

EMM: What is the motivation for creating a 'Tilth' type organization in Memphis?

CC: The long-term sustainability of like-minded and like-missioned local food system organizations. We are developing an umbrella organization, Memphis Tilth, as a nonprofit housing local food economy/system and food justice programs and initiatives.

The partnership between Seattle Tilth and Memphis Tilth will be a model for how the Tilth Movement, specifically Seattle Tilth, can connect with other cities throughout the nation. The 10-year vision is "Tilth like" organizations nationwide to work collectively for food system change.

Out of this partnership, Seattle Tilth will gain a component (toolkit and model) that they can use to connect to Tilth-like organizations nationwide. Memphis Tilth will be the national model for the Tilth Movement and the front-runner to collective nationwide food systems change.

Our mission is to “Cultivate collective action for a economically sustainable, socially equitable, and environmentally sound local food system.” We will be a nonprofit collective housing like-missioned initiatives for land, food, people, and place under the fiscal sponsorship of the Memphis Center for Food and Faith.

EMM: What are a few 'low-hanging fruit' initiatives that you see Memphis Tilth being able to rapidly accomplish that would not be otherwise?

CC: Memphis Tilth would allow principal organizations to have a greater impact on our local food system, local food policy, and the capacity for soliciting for greater funding opportunities and collaborative partnerships. This is a holistic approach to food systems change and sustainability. Currently four organizations (Memphis Center for Food and Faith, Bring It! Food Hub, GrowMemphis, and Urban Farms Memphis) are coming together to plan the development of Memphis Tilth. In 2016 we will streamline our collective activities, and increase our impact for greater resource sharing, development, and advocacy.

EMM: Do you see Tilth as being the 'next-step' in the evolution of Memphis in terms of local food, community gardens, and urban agriculture? Why?

CC: Yes, In the past 10 years Memphis has done an amazing job of launching innovative projects, programs, and small nonprofit organizations to address food system issues but it is time for us to come together to collectively address the systemic issues in creating a sustainable change in our community. It is very difficult to do this and to manage a small nonprofit or launch a new program that could really make a difference. As a collective larger nonprofit we can leverage our assets to better manage and support these much needed programs and initiatives.

An RSVP for attending the presentation is suggested to The meeting and presentation will be held Wednesday, November 18th, 2015 from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm at:

Memphis Leadership Foundation
1548 Poplar Avenue, Memphis TN 38104

And you can read up on the history of Seattle Tilth and its current programs and initiatives at

Carole Colter, GrowMemphis
Carole Colter, Executive Director of GrowMemphis, at The White House Garden earlier this year.
Article from Edible Memphis at
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