NGA and Neighborland Help Memphis Go Green

By Jenna Antonino DiMare


The ″Smart Mules″ of Grow Memphis have a vision of a greener city.

How can we turn our community's challenges into opportunities to make a greener city? That question, which civic-minded problem solvers and green-thumbs across the country ask themselves every day, drives Adam Guerrero and his team of blight-busting ″Smart Mules″ in Memphis, Tennessee. ″The work we are doing is a real paradigm shift in terms of how we live in cities,″ stated Guerrero. It is also the question driving people like Guerrero to Neighborland, a civic-problem-solving social network now available across the United States.

As a Board of Directors member of the Memphis-based non-profit, Grow Memphis, Guerrero is reimagining what can be done with the many blighted vacant lots that dot his city. In the Shasta Neighborhood, where 42.2% of residents live below the poverty level, Guerrero has dreams of starting a mini-farm – an oasis in an urban food desert. Memphis' empty and abandoned lots are overgrown with tall grasses and the ″Smart Mules″ team is working to harvest the tall grasses and in turn use the vegetative blight as mulch and compost for their future urban farm.

During the month of October, National Gardening Association (NGA) partnered with Neighborland to challenge Memphis residents to propose innovative projects to make their city and neighborhoods more sustainable. With a $1,000 grant awarded to the most promising project, Neighborland's simple platform empowered local Memphis residents to ″connect and make good things happen.″ Despite receiving many inspiring project proposals, from founding an urban agriculture school to growing a newly established community garden, it was clear to NGA that the ″Smart Mules″ project would have the greatest impact with the $1,000 award.

The ″Smart Mules″ multifaceted approach to problem solving is visionary. ″We are fighting [urban] blight, raising neighborhood morale, engaging our local government, and investing in a future for the neighborhood, all at the same time,″ writes the Smart Mules team. To accomplish these goals, Smart Mules provides work for many young, at-risk males who have been ″largely dismissed″ or disenfranchised, according to team leader Guerrero.

On Saturday, November 10 the ″Smart Mules″ team was presented the $1,000 grant from National Gardening Association by Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton at MemFIX, an event created to re-imagine the future of a long-neglected Memphis neighborhood. With the $1,000 award, the ″Smart Mules″ team will be able to buy new equipment, increasing the efficiency of their work and thereby moving closer to their ultimate goal of establishing in the Shasta neighborhood. National Gardening Association is delighted to present this award to the ″Smart Mules″ team and applauds their aspirations to create a more sustainable world.


After the ″Smart Mules' harvest its vegetation, the lot looks better, and provides a pile of organic matter to turn into valuable compost.

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