The Sweet Potato Project recruits young men and women from the North St. Louis community to be part of the year-long project which maintains a strong focus on agriculture, marketing, sales, and self-sustainability. The outcome is a business plan for turning the summer produce into a product that can be sold.
The Sweet Potato Project begins with a 10-week summer program where students learn about urban agriculture and sustainability and plant sweet potatoes seeds in lots in their community. Throughout the summer, in addition to learning the agriculture skills needed to care for the growing sweet potatoes, the students participate in entrepreneurial and business skills training workshops and classes. The participants also attend public lectures and events to gain the knowledge needed to actively participate in the second phase of the project. The summer program ends in October with the harvest of the sweet potatoes.
The second phase of the Sweet Potato Project begins in the fall and winter months, when the students put their business and entrepreneurial skills into action and convert the produce into a product. The sweet potatoes become sweet potato cookies that can be marketed and sold in the community. During this phase of the project the students work with chefs in the Saint Louis University Department of Nutrition and Dietetics to develop sweet potato cookie recipes and work in the kitchen to make the product. The students also get the opportunity to utilize the entrepreneurial and business skills as they market and sell cookies through direct consumer interactions and Internet advertising and sales.
Once the final sweet potato is harvested and the last cookies is sold, the process begins again. Each year our goal is to add more student, more plots of land, and many more sweet potatoes!