The John Merck Fund is providing critical funding to the Wellspring Collaborative to develop a hydroponic greenhouse called Wellspring Harvest that will provide year-round local produce to institutions and commercial venues in western Massachusetts.
With JMF’s funds, Wellspring put together a detailed business plan, secured land, raised $900,000 in financing including $250,000 through a direct public offering, hired a skilled greenhouse grower and completed a site and building plan. Final site engineering and permits are in process, with construction to begin this spring. Wellspring also received a grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to research the feasibility of building an anaerobic digester to provide a renewable energy source for the greenhouse.
Wellspring’s mission is to create a network of worker-owned companies that provide on-the-job training and wealth creation opportunities for low-income residents of Springfield. The organization’s five-year goal is to create more than 100 jobs through ten worker-owned companies. Wellspring’s companies provide goods and services to the region’s anchor institutions: the hospitals, colleges, and universities that are the largest employers and purchasers in western Massachusetts.
Local anchor institutions joined with community, labor, and economic development organizations to form Wellspring in 2010. In December 2013, Wellspring Upholstery opened its doors as its first cooperative business. That company now has seven employees and carries out $225,000 of work a year for colleges and hospitals in Massachusetts and Connecticut. The Old Window Workshop joined Wellspring in 2016 as a women-owned cooperative that restores historic windows.
Wellspring appreciated JMF’s willingness to invest in their innovative and long-term development project, and looks forward to demonstrating over the next couple of years that its urban, hydroponic greenhouse can provide a source of year-round local produce and employment, as well as making a significant contribution to the region’s sustainable food system. So far, Baystate Health, Big Y Supermarkets, and Springfield Public Schools have all committed to purchasing produce from the greenhouse when it becomes available.