GrowMemphis takes spotlight

The Near Reaches, which includes GrowMemphis board member J.D. Reager, is among bands playing at Saturday's benefit concert.

The Near Reaches, which includes GrowMemphis board member J.D. Reager, is among bands playing at Saturday's benefit concert.

Over the years, there have been myriad worthy causes that have generated the support of musicians in Memphis. On Saturday, a group of local performers will gather to aid emerging community agricultural organization GrowMemphis, which will be the subject and beneficiary of an awareness- and fundraising concert at the Hi-Tone Café.

"We wanted to do something to get our name out there and give people an idea of who we are and what we do," says GrowMemphis executive director Chris Peterson.

A native Memphian and Christian Brothers University graduate, Peterson recently returned to the Bluff City after completing his master's thesis at King's College London on the practical viability and ethics of sustainable food systems.

As Peterson points out, GrowMemphis initially began in 2007 as a project of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, helping to start community gardening projects in the Hollywood-Springdale, South Memphis and Orange Mound areas.

"It started off being about food access," Peterson says. "The idea that fresh local produce should be available to everybody, regardless of economic status or location. We also started community gardens all around the city and have engaged in further food policy advocacy."

"As part of our continuing efforts, we've connected gardeners from all around the city, from high income to low income, in order to help build up a sense of community," he says.

In January, GrowMemphis became an independent organization, moving out from under the umbrella of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center.

With the help of musician and GrowMemphis board member J.D. Reager, the idea for Saturday's concert was hatched as a way to spread the group's mission. "We wanted to have a public event just to celebrate the fact that this idea has enough momentum and interest within the community to exist," Peterson says.

Among those performing is Reager's band The Near Reaches, indie-pop outfit Wuvbirds, featuring Jered and Lori McStay and Kate Crowder of Two Way Radio; singer-songwriter Chris Milam, and rock combo Jeffrey James & the Haul.

"I think it's an issue that's close to the heart of everyone playing to the show; certainly, everyone is donating their time to do this," Reager says. "For me, I'm passionate about the idea of equal food resources being available in all communities. Not only is growing food a good idea; it's an important, viable business model as well."

In addition to this week's concert, GrowMemphis will be involved in several other public events in the coming weeks.

The second annual BristerFest concert -- scheduled for April 28 and 29 at the Levitt Shell and the Hi-Tone -- will also donate a portion of its proceeds to the organization. And on April 15, GrowMemphis will hold its spring plant sale at Idlewild Presbyterian Church.

"We grow all the starter plants for our community gardens, but we grow extra to sell as a fundraiser," Peterson says. "That way, people can come see what it is we do in a real way. It's all part of trying to connect with folks in Memphis and help spread this idea."

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A benefit concert for GrowMemphis, with Chris Milam, The Near Reaches, Wuvbirds and Jeffrey James & the Haul

9 p.m. Saturday at the Hi-Tone Café, 1913 Poplar. Cover is $5. All proceeds benefit GrowMemphis. For more information, go to growmemphis.org.

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