Jeff’s Corner Garden, Pensacola FL

When Innisfree Hotels planted the seed for its ‘From the Ground Up’ garden, the company never could have dreamed of the types of opportunities it could grow. Just two seasons into harvesting sustainable crops, the garden carved out a corner for a new partner – Jeff Shell and family – to house Jeff’s Corner Garden.

The Shell family is no stranger to Innisfree Hotels, having begun working in the garden through the non-profit organization Upward Intuition, a project Jeff’s brother Jon created to inspire area youth. His skate team has volunteered in the garden since the beginning. (In fact, the Shells have been working with the City of Pensacola to gain access to a piece of land adjacent to the garden to create a multi-use facility and the City’s first skate park through the non-profit.)

So when Jeff received a grant from RESPECT of Florida to fund a business concept based on growing organic vegetables and selling them to local restaurants, Innisfree’s ‘From the Ground Up’ garden was a natural fit.

“At the end of the day, Jeff’s self-employment is what matters most, and we have a sustainable model that allows him to be successful and continue to grow and work as he enjoys,” Jon says.

Jon feels it an honor and privilege to work with the people at Innisfree and the Hive, the company’s corporate social responsibility program. Closely aligned missions give way to tremendous potential not only for growth, but for improving the quality of life and health for those in the community.

“This is just the beginning, and we are excited to see how this next year unfolds,” Jon says.

His brother, Jeff, concurs. We spoke to Jeff from the PSC Campus of the PALS Program of ARC Gateway. Since beginning Jeff’s Corner Garden in late 2015, he has already secured an additional garden location. Having planted more than 2,000 seeds so far, Jeff says it’s really fun to watch a seed grow from a tiny little thing into a big plant.

In January 2016, interns from the PALS Program – adults with learning disabilities – will see what it’s like to run a garden, under the mentorship of Jeff.

Job Coach Melody Hinson of the PALS Program shares: “This gives our students an opportunity to learn new things and experience things they may or may not have done before, and it also gives them an opportunity to put those skill sets to use, helping us help them find a job at the end of the program. By actually working at the garden, they will be able to find out if they like or love doing this. And Jeff may want to hire them. That is an awesome thing.”

“I’m really excited about that … I wanted to work with students with disabilities for a long time,” Jeff says. “I’m gonna help out as much as I can.”

He has already helped so much.