Bobby Kelley (MBA ’23), Immersion Treks Board Co-Chair
To kick off the first TFC immersion of the 2021-2022 school year, graduate students from across Vanderbilt set out to discover what the social enterprise landscape of the Murfreesboro corridor in Nashville has been up to. On the docket was a visit to four locations and three separate organizations, including Harvest Hands, Humphreys Street, Trevecca Urban Farms, and Wonder Worm Farm. Since this was a location-driven endeavor, we didn’t focus on any specific cause for a theme.
Following a slight delay from waiting on a long train, the team gathered at Humphreys Street. Humphreys Street is a lively coffee shop and social enterprise whose mission is to create positive economic opportunities for local high school students, while also offering employees opportunities including college tours, trade school options, financial literacy training, and mentorship. The Humphreys Street coffee shop serves as the face of Harvest Hands to the Nashville community, and started off our immersion with a great introduction from our hosts over expertly prepared coffee and delicious pastries.
After learning about the community and getting an overview of the coffee shop, we took a trip to our next destination, Harvest Hands. Harvest Hands is more than just an organization that aims to empower the local South Nashville community through education, healthy living, spiritual formation, and economic development. It also serves as the heart of the coffee roasting business that provides the roasted beans to Humphreys Street Coffee. Our hosts were extremely gracious to provide us with a tour of the building that spanned both the coffee operations as well as the recreational facility and classrooms. This part of the immersion ended with a discussion about the work that Humphreys Street and Harvest Hands set out to achieve.
Next came Wonder Worm Farm. I don’t think anyone was ready for how interesting the worm business really is. As we arrived to a non-descript warehouse and entered, we were met with a massive soil separator, a large pile of dirt, and what seemed like an endless number of worms. Wonder Worm Farm is a start-up in its first year with the goal of becoming the country’s biggest producer of vermiculture compost and scaling this niche industry into a viable alternative to chemical fertilizers.
Our last stop on the immersion was to Trevecca Urban Farm, a ten-year-old urban farm spanning the campus of Trevecca Nazarene University with a mission to engage students and community members to develop a closer relationship to nature through urban agriculture and animal husbandry. As we ventured through campus, we were shown urban farming techniques and a wide variety of vegetation. The tour ended with a lovable display of chickens, pigs, and goats.
The Murfreesboro Road immersion closed with a group debrief where we all discussed the activities and lessons that we learned over lunch. Students offered the key thing that stuck with them and why after everything that we saw. It was truly great to have the opportunity to explore the social landscape in a city that has changed so much over the last decade, and I for one cannot wait to experience where the next immersion takes us.