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It’s GO Time for INMED Aquaponics® in Leesburg

November 4, 2022 (Leesburg, VA): The Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) has awarded INMED Partnerships for Children a grant to implement its special brand of aquaponics for food production in a low-income community of Leesburg, VA.

Through its Get Outdoors Fund (GO), the VOF supports projects that increase equitable access to safe open space in Virginia’s communities. The intent of the program is to serve as a flexible, adaptable tool for addressing communities’ needs, such as access to locally produced foods and clean and safe environments for recreation and work.

INMED is introducing aquaponics, plus home and community gardening, to strengthen food security among low-income residents of the Leesburg Mobile Home Park (LMHP) while promoting environmental education and access to outdoor space. Aquaponics combines aquaculture and hydroponics in a closed, symbiotic system that uses 90% less water and produces up to 10 times more in the same space as conventional agriculture, while eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.

“INMED has been strengthening food security, environmental conservation, climate adaptation and sustainable livelihoods through aquaponics in vulnerable communities around the world for more than a decade,” says Jennifer Smith, INMED’s U.S. Programs Director. “We’re excited to now offer this impactful program in the U.S.” Sterling, VA-based INMED USA will lead the project.

“Access to nutritious food and safe open space are key to healthy communities, and we are excited to be supporting both through this grant,” says Brett Glymph, Executive Director of the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. “We believe the program will have immediate and lasting impacts on the community it serves.”

A community aquaponics garden planned for the LMHP will provide fresh, all-natural produce to the families year-round, supplemented by nutrition education, wellness workshops, fitness classes and other resources the families need to narrow health equity and food security gaps. “We are excited to offer all the support and services we provide at our Sterling Opportunity Center to the residents of the Loudoun Mobile Home Park right in their own backyard,” says Smith.

The LMHP community is home to 130 low-income families that have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and skyrocketing inflation. INMED USA has been working closely with the new property owner, David Gregory, to improve conditions and opportunities for the community.

For more information about INMED USA, visit https://inmedusa.org. For more information about the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, visit https://vof.org

Photos available upon request: nbaker@inmed.org.

Loudoun Welcomes Dignitaries from Jamaica

AUGUST 31, 2022 (Leesburg, VA): Loudoun County elected officials welcomed a distinguished delegation of government officials from Jamaica to Leesburg today at a special reception hosted by INMED Partnerships for Children and INMED USA. The event was part of a three-day strategic planning session between INMED and Jamaica 4-H Clubs, a program of the Jamaica Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, to promote climate-smart agriculture for community development.

INMED has been strengthening food security, climate adaptation and sustainable livelihoods in Jamaica since 2002. Earlier this year, INMED expanded its work in Jamaica by launching the INMED Aquaponics® Social Enterprise in partnership with Jamaica 4-H Clubs to provide training in climate-smart agriculture to youth.

Minister of State in the Jamaica Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Franklin Witter, J.P., M.P. and high-level representatives of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs took the opportunity to tour the site of INMED USA’s future community aquaponics garden at the Leesburg Mobile Home Park (LMHP), where the reception was held. “We are excited to offer all the support and services we provide at our Sterling Opportunity Center–and globally through aquaponics–to the residents of the Loudoun Mobile Home Park right in their own backyard,” said INMED U.S. Programs Director Jennifer Lassiter Smith.

A community aquaponics garden planned for the LMHP will provide fresh, all-natural produce to the families year-round, supplemented by nutrition education, wellness workshops, fitness classes and other resources the families need to narrow health equity and food security gaps. “Kids in the mobile home community will also have the opportunity to collaborate with members of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs to learn about and practice sustainable agriculture at the community garden or in their own home gardens,” added Smith.

The LMHP community is home to 130 low-income families that have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and sky-rocketing inflation. INMED USA has been working closely with the new property owner, David Gregory, to improve conditions and opportunities for the community.

Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall toured the site and welcomed the distinguished visitors, including Dr. Ronald Blake, Executive Director of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs and Technical Advisor – 4-H Regional Council (Caribbean & Latin America) and Collin Virgo, Vice Chairman of the Global 4-H Council, Regional 4-H Chairman for the Caribbean and Latin America and Chairman of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs, in addition to Minister Witter.

The Jamaican dignitaries also received a warm welcome and an official proclamation from Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk.

“From the Jamaica Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, we are very excited to explore opportunities to extend our partnership with INMED and meet the local authorities where INMED is headquartered,” said Minister Witter. “We are proud of the work we’ve accomplished together with aquaponics in Jamaica thus far and see tremendous opportunity.”

Aquaponics is a combination of hydroponics and aquaculture in a closed symbiotic system that consumes 90% less water, 75% less energy and no chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides while producing up to 10 times more harvests than traditional farming. Resilient to severe climate events, INMED Aquaponics® allows farmers to produce year-round regardless of geographic conditions. Women, youth and people with disabilities are prospering with INMED Aquaponics® on three continents, thanks to partnerships with the public and private sectors as well as organizations like Jamaica 4-H Clubs.

“Our partnership with INMED started out as a local project in Jamaica, and I’m happy to say that from this current engagement, it is morphing into a regional and global project,” said 4-H Clubs’ Collin Virgo. “This visit to INMED’s physical office has been an eye opener for our entire team. We had no idea the broad scope of work that INMED does and the fantastic things they are achieving in the communities in which they work. We are eager to expand this partnership.”

For more information about INMED USA, visit https://inmedusa.org. For more information about Jamaica 4-H Clubs, visit https://jamaica4hclubs.com.

Photos available upon request: nbaker@inmed.org.

The Power of Partnerships Transforms Leesburg Community

Sunday, May 1 marked a special milestone for the residents of the Leesburg Mobile Home Park (LMHP). It was the first community-wide picnic organized by the development’s new owner, David Gregory, and local nonprofit INMED USA. “We have a lot to celebrate,” said Jennifer Lassiter Smith, the US Programs Director for INMED Partnerships for Children, the parent organization of INMED USA. “It is a community we have been serving for many years, but now there is a new feeling of optimism and hope.”

Over the past year, the LMHP community’s fate has been in limbo. Facing displacement under a potential property buy-out, residents pleaded with the Town of Leesburg and Loudoun County for a solution to keep their neighborhood in place. When the deal fell through earlier this year, Joe Serafin of Serafin Real Estate worked with local philanthropist Gregory to preserve and protect the tight-knit community. Gregory bought the property outright. “So many of us want to keep the community stable and where it is,” said Serafin. “Together, we took the Town of Leesburg and the residents off of what could have been a collision course. Dave is going above and beyond to make sure the residents have a great place to live.”

As a partner of INMED USA, Gregory reached out to Smith to help him engage with residents on their hopes and dreams for their community’s future. “INMED already works with many families in the park, and we are honored to build the support network to help the community thrive moving forward,” said Smith. “As we learn more about their needs, INMED will bridge the gaps and work with the residents in programs that build a sustainable future for the families.” But first, they celebrated!

Participants in INMED USA’s entrepreneurship program served homemade pupusas, beans and rice from their startup catering company. Children who attend INMED’s after-school and teen programs dressed in colorful attire to entertain fellow residents with traditional dances and hip hop numbers, while proud parents and neighbors clapped and snapped photos on their cell phones. INMED staff and volunteers doled out frosty snow cones, popcorn, pizza, and cake and painted the upturned faces of children and adults alike. Music and laughter filled the air. 

INMED community partners also set up tables to share information about helpful resources. BCT-Bank of Charles Town, for example, has been working with INMED USA to provide free financial literacy classes for low-income adults. “BCT is proud to continue our outreach to the LMHP community,” noted Alice Frazier, President and CEO. “Our solutions will allow them greater access to financial services, creating an environment of financial inclusion for all.” 

By far, the most popular attractions were the games and activities led by Leesburg Diversity Commission and the Leesburg Police Department. “Our officers had a lot of fun with the kids, especially leading tours of the inside of a police car and taking pictures with the families,” said Sgt. Wael Abilmona. “Most importantly, we got to know the community and they got to know us. With the assistance of Officer Castro, who translated our message to everyone, we stressed the importance of developing a partnership with the police and the police having a positive partnership with the community.”

Building trust is a priority for the community moving forward, said Linda McCray, Chair of the Leesburg Diversity Commission, which serves as a liaison for the Leesburg Police Department and other local agencies. “Our mission is to help foster diversity and inclusion within the community at large. The event truly embodied the spirit of inclusiveness, community and what is possible. We loved it!” So did resident Cesar Frias.

“It was wonderful to celebrate together as neighbors and as a family with food, drinks, music, activities for the children and so much fun. We’ve never had an event like this before,” said Frias. “We really appreciated that the police were there to let us know that we can count on them. I’d like to thank Mr. Gregory for this act of kindness towards the residents of Leesburg Mobile Home Park, as well as INMED and everyone else who helped make this event happen.”

For more information about the programs and services of INMED USA, please visit https://inmedusa.org.

Photo captions:

  1. INMED-LMHP picnic: Children enjoyed games, food and fun at the Leesburg Mobile Home Park community picnic organized by INMED USA.
  2. Wael Abilmona and his fellow officers tossed footballs with kids in the LMHP community at its recent picnic.
  3. Residents of the Leesburg Mobile Home Park celebrated the new ownership of the property, which will keep their community intact.
  4. Many countries, one community.
  5. Children in INMED USA’s after-school and teen programs entertained the crowd with traditional dancing at the LMHP community picnic.