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How a SteelMaster Quonset Hut Strengthens Impact of Jacksonville Non-Profit

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Birds eye view of Eartha's Farm and Market showing the greenhouse and Quonset hut.

In a bustling city like Jacksonville, Florida, with its vibrant neighborhoods and thriving downtown, there’s an area known as the Northside that has been historically underserved. But thanks to the vision and dedication of the Clara White Mission, founded over 120 years ago, and the innovative work of its current CEO, Ju’Coby Pittman, COO Meg Fisher, and Farm Director Sarah Salvatore, a transformation is underway. The mission’s latest project, Eartha’s Farm and Market, is not only bringing fresh, locally grown produce to a place with food insecurity, but also providing a host of services and programs that are changing lives in the community. As CEO Ju’Coby Pittman eloquently put it, “We grow produce, but we are also growing people.”

The Clara White Mission has deep roots in Jacksonville. It was founded by Clara White, a tireless advocate and community leader, who opened her home to veterans returning from war and provided them with food and shelter. Her daughter, Dr. Eartha White, continued her mother’s work and expanded the mission’s services to include transitional and permanent housing, mental health services, and a culinary arts training program. The mission has always been about serving the community, particularly those in need, and it continues to do so today.

“[Clara] was a leader who revolutionized services in the community. We are continuing her legacy with Eartha’s Farm and Market,” said CEO Ju’Coby Pittman.

Eartha’s Farm and Market is a natural extension of the Clara White Mission’s mission. Located on a 10.5-acre property that once served as an ash dump site, the farm has undergone a remarkable transformation. With the help of the EPA and the city, the land was cleaned up, and real dirt was brought in to create fertile ground for farming. The farm now grows a variety of fruits and vegetables using organic farming methods.

Sarah Salvatore, the Farm Director, explained, “Four years ago, there was no farm. There were a few rows of okra. The irrigation didn’t work. The greenhouse was falling apart. We did not have the Quonset hut. We had no market. We had no programming. But [Ju’Coby] told me we had a farm, and we had a vision.”

Initially, their vision was to construct a traditional brick-and-mortar building. However, a transformative suggestion from one of their board members led them on a journey to explore the potential of a much sturdier option, a SteelMaster Quonset hut. After visiting Congaree and Penn, a local farm and restaurant that utilizes a SteelMaster building, they were captivated by its versatile and durable design. Seeing firsthand the endless possibilities a Quonset hut offered, they knew it would be the ideal fit for their property.

The Clara White Mission’s success with Eartha’s Farm and Market has been bolstered using a SteelMaster Quonset Hut. This durable, versatile structure provides the perfect space for the mission’s operations, including storing equipment, hosting workshops, and selling produce at the farmer’s market. Its low-cost, low-maintenance design makes it an ideal choice for a nonprofit organization like the Clara White Mission.

Additionally, SteelMaster buildings are eco-friendly, which align with the sustainable farming practices at Eartha’s Farm and Market. Our structures are designed to reduce the negative impact of construction on the natural environment by efficiently using energy, water, and other resources, protecting occupant health, and reducing waste, pollution, and environmental degradation.

“In the last year we’ve grown tremendously and we’re growing more and more.  This building has really become a pillar in the community. You can come in and take a class. You can join the culinary arts training program. You can be a vendor and get small business training. You can rent the space for your events. I mean, it goes on and on and on. But what this really is, is a pillar of hope,” exclaimed Ju’Coby.

Looking ahead, the Clara White Mission has big plans for Eartha’s Farm and Market. With the demand for its programs and services growing, the mission is planning to build a new building on the property to serve as a hub for businesses and community programs. This new building will provide the mission with the space it needs to expand its reach and impact.

Eartha’s Farm and Market is a shining example of what’s possible when a community comes together to address a critical need. Thanks to the vision and dedication of the Clara White Mission and its partners, the Northside of Jacksonville is being transformed into a vibrant, thriving community. And with plans for expansion and growth, the mission’s impact will only continue to grow in the years to come.