Members of the Trump Administration visited an urban farm in Wilmington Monday. They see the project as a model for economic development and reentry training programs.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson toured Second Chances Farm in Wilmington.
Second Chances Farm is an indoor, hydroponic commercial farm that employs formerly incarcerated individuals and provides them with job training and mentoring.
It’s located in a federal Opportunity Zone and is a qualified Opportunity Fund, which means private investments in it get capital gains tax incentives.
Carson said during his visit Monday that Second Chances Farm is a “shining example” of the program.
“Opportunity zones are serving their purpose by empowering the private sector to find new solutions to elevate America’s forgotten men and women,” Carson said, “people who have lived in places that have simply been economically neglected, and where people don’t see a reason to invest.”
The farm was highlighted in a HUD Opportunity Zones best practices report to the President this spring.
Barr said after touring the operation it aligns with the goals of the 2018 First Step Act, which supports recidivism-reducing programs for federal inmates.
“We can have a great impact on the incidence of crime simply by reducing recidivism, including preparing inmates for productive work,” he said Monday.
Barr is facing criticism for the Department of Justice’s move to take over President Trump’s defense in a defamation case.
Second Chances Founder Ajit George says the farm took a hit when many restaurants shut down because of the coronavirus, but has since rebounded by starting a farm-to-table delivery service, which has close to 400 subscribers.
"COVID actually helped us, which we didn't think it would," he said. "Because it found us a whole new market which we had no plan to go into ... We had to literally scramble in 48 hours to put all of that together. But by doing that, A, we proved we were successful—but, B, we got a whole bunch of new customers, some of whom potentially want to invest in us."
George signed an agreement with a Philly-based developer Monday to manage a second Second Chances Farm location in North Philly.
"We will be the minority partners, because somebody else is putting in all the money, but we will manage and run the farm," said George.
George says Second Chances Philadelphia will employ formerly incarcerated Philadelphians, but individuals trained at the Wilmington location will serve as leaders and managers there.
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