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Hidden Gems: Meet Frank Bailey Jr. of Grow Orlando

Today we’d like to introduce you to Frank Bailey Jr.

Frank, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
My story started with my grandparents and the importance of agriculture that they instilled in me. My mother AND HER parents were both from Jamaica and were farmers and my paternal grandfather was a chicken farmer in Georgia. He eventually migrated to South Florida to work with sugar cane IN THE FACTORY WHILE MY MOTHER’S UNCLE WORKED IN THE SUGER CANE FIELDS. It’s in my blood that these people before me were already working with plants and the earth beneath their feet.

I remember as a young child going to my grandmother’s house and tasting fresh green beans that she grew in her backyard. The flavor difference compared to the canned vegetables I tried was completely different and blew my mind. By the time I was 12, I had started my own business, FBailey, Inc. and for four years, worked WITH landscaping; planting flowers and cutting grass. That business helped instill in me WORK ETHIC, HEALTH AND the importance of agriculture being not just a form to feed myself but as a way to earn income.

Fast forward to my adult years, where I CREATED OPPORTUNITIES in different professions OF music, teaching, basketball. The rest of my uncles and aunts were educators and creative types, so education was also important to my foundation. The tools I needed were already there, provided by my loved ones. Every human being needs food and a way to provide for themselves and so I brought all of my skills together, education, teamwork and farming, and created the pilot that would eventually become Grow Orlando. I began by creating a farmer’s market and selling products through several YMCA’s and the local Health Department. Then I started teaching children how to keep small plants healthy and if in two weeks they could bring me back a still healthy plant, then I would give them $2. HOWEVER, if they could tell me the health properties of those plants and market their product to me, then I was willing to negotiate a higher price. THIS WEBT WILDLY SUCCESSFUL, AND In one go our pilot program was teaching young kids about wealth management, marketing, farming, and entrepreneurship.

That DESIRE to farm, to take care of the environment, and to help children has never left me to this day. It has been a very long journey to get Grow Orlando off the ground but my dedication to its core focus has never wavered.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Grow Orlando is six years in the making and counting. I sacrificed other forms of income and jobs in order to focus on Grow Orlando full time. Sometimes that meant placing the greater good of the organization over my own needs, both financially and mentally. Other times it was working diligently to bring another organization on board and that falling through the cracks or not panning out the way I needed it to. It was wearing a million different hats and not having the team to back up the work I was trying to accomplish. Even when Grow Orlando began catching momentum, we still experienced growing pains.

One time we planted a crop and our harvest didn’t work out which was a letdown for the students but a learning experience nonetheless for all of us of what works and what doesn’t. Another time we planted our crops, we had a great harvest but didn’t look into the legality of being able to sell our products from the City’s land area we were allowed in and that was deeply frustrating. Just recently, a state representative wrote a bill on our behalf, gaining bipartisan support, but our governor shot it down and was a great loss that, as an organization, we had to grieve. However, through all of these challenges, between myself and my team, we pick ourselves up, dust our shoulders off, and keep moving forward because we refuse to fail. Personally, this entire experience is a constant flow of knowledge where my mistakes were difficult but necessary life lessons.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about Grow Orlando?
Grow Orlando is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that teaches life skills through plant cultivation to youth by hiring them to farm and landscape. Basically, we use plants to grow teens and provide real life opportunity and experience. The coolest part of what we do is that the products and services we provide, facilitate creative opportunities and experiences for youth in communities that don’t have many. We are also building a micro-farm network in Central Florida called Grow It Forward in collaboration with local church & community partners, minority farmers, and youth, building food and economic sovereignty for all.

So, before we go, how can our readers or others connect or collaborate with you? How can they support you?
Please like and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Linked In, Twitter or online at www.groworlando.org. You can also reach out to us directly via email at groworlando@gmail.com or by messaging us directly via one of the social media accounts. We always love to have people come out and get their hands dirty, so stay connected with us and find out when our next workdays are! If you are interested in donating, investing, or joining our team or board, please email frank@groworlando.org for further inquiry. You can also buy our products at any of our local farmer’s markets or hire our teams to beautify or install your green spaces. We are looking forward to growing with you!

Contact Info:

Image Credits
“Kids holding plants up” – Tangelo Park YMCA Enrichment Course “Me and hot white lady” – Florida Foodie podcast with Channel 6 Anchor Woman Lisa Bell “Group of people holding shovels” – Winter Garden youth and community garden “Lots of black women, me and an old man” – Lynn Nicholson, president of the Parramore Community Gardens, Sorority sisters from UCF workday downtown “Three black on black dudes” – G.O. students working at the Prayer Garden at the Presbyterian Church of the Lakes “Three ladies and Me” – Grow Orlando team from left to right, Hanah Murphy, Ambar Payne, Bianca Ephraim “Single Dude shoveling” – Student working on a massive pile of mulch “Heart Plants” – Student collecting and designing plant pictures for sale.

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