The Sweet Potato Project recruited 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 began with a 10-week summer program where students learned 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 was designed so students could put their business and entrepreneurial skills into action and convert the produce into a product. The sweet potatoes became sweet potato cookies that were marketed and sold in the community. During this phase of the project the students worked with chefs in the Saint Louis University Department of Nutrition and Dietetics to develop sweet potato cookie recipes and make the product. The students also got the opportunity to utilize the entrepreneurial and business skills as they marketed and sold cookies through direct and Internet advertising and sales.
Once the final sweet potato was harvested and the last cookies were sold, the process began again. Each year the goal was to add more student, more plots of land, and grow many more sweet potatoes!