PETERSBURG, Va. -- In the heart of the city, a Petersburg couple is quite literally growing their business from the ground up with the support of a new United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg Pilot Program.
"You can grow food anywhere," said Andretta Whitfield.
She and her husband Ricky started their urban farm amid the pandemic, making their dreams a reality.
"It is called, 'Thank God Urban Farm,' and we started December of 2020," Andretta said. "It was my husband's dream to become a farmer and help with the cure of our food desert."
The Whitfields work as a team: one with the green thumb, the other business-savvy.
"Me and my family moved into the house, and I put one seed in the ground and for some reason that worked," said Ricky Whitfield.
Andretta said her husband was a 'worker bee', handling the heavy lifting and farming.
"And I do everything else," said Andretta with a laugh.
On three small plots of land, these entrepreneurs hoped to build a future and legacy for their family, adding that their four-year-old son, Auston, had special needs.
"My son just being outside alone has just helped him tremendously," Andretta said.
The Whitfield's said they wanted to expand that impact by providing food to their city. Ricky added that he never wanted a child in the city to experience what he did.
"I grew up in many different places of Petersburg," Ricky said. "I really do know how it feels to be hungry. Like, I might have a smile on my face about it but I want to pump out so much food throughout this city so I can sell it at the cheapest affordable rate I possibly can for this city."
A new program with The United Way of Greater Richmond and Peterburg was helping the two of them make their goal a reality. The Whitfields participated in the pilot for ‘Start Up For Success.’
"Our goal was to sort of fill that gap or a small cadre and a bit of a pilot, as we look at how can we help individuals in this time frame, where people are looking for new and different ways to support their families to do so on their own dreams," said James Taylor, President and CEO for United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg.
Andretta said the 10-week course gave her the training, funding and support to catapult their urban farm to the next level. She said she was able to get professional business cards and a website as well.
"It was a great and wonderful help. It was," Andretta said. "This has been a life-changing experience for my husband and I."
The Whitfields now hope to share that with their community.
"Just trying to accept all the goodness that’s come," said Andretta. "It's been overwhelming a little because I wasn’t expecting all of this. But it's just been so good. It really has."
Andretta was one of five entrepreneurs that were a part of the 'Start Up For Success' pilot program. Participants came from a wide variety of backgrounds, with a variety of business ideas.
Participants were allowed to request up to $1,000 to help with startup costs. Taylor said he hoped to grow another cohort next spring or summer.
"Creating opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs in a post-pandemic world is a critical step on the road to recovery. Start Up for Success helps people and communities rebuild," Taylor said.