News and Public Media for North Central Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Row by row, Grace Grows is trying to create a better version of southeast Gainesville

Volunteers at Grace Grows prepare soil inside a raised bed at the 65-acre facility in southeast Gainesville. (Photo courtesy of SOMEONE)
Volunteers at Grace Grows prepare soil inside a raised bed at the 25-acre facility in southeast Gainesville. (Photo courtesy of Abigail Perret-Gentil)

Abigail Perret-Gentil, founder and executive director of Grace Grows, took notice of the lack of progression in southeast Gainesville and is now working to create a micro food hub to fill in the food desserts across the community.

“Half of Gainesville is suffering," she said, noting how many banks there are west of Main Street, compared to a paucity on the east side, "...where most of the Black people live.”

Perret-Gentil left her job at a biotech to start a nonprofit organization called Grace Grows to combat this food desert. This organization aims to provide shelter for those who are displaced, have food disparities and have a mental illness.

“I thought of this idea in 2019, did a lot of community engagement, wanted it to be community service work and didn’t want it to be just white people coming to help,” she said. “We wanted inclusion for people to be in a position of power and we believe that sharing power can help better address these things.”

She reflected on the struggle of her family in Venezuela who are starving and living in a country with a high crime rate not being able to help them. She came to Gainesville when she was 15 years old. Now 39, her goal is to help people who didn’t have easy access to local stores.

This year she wanted to start her micro food hub on the largest plot of agricultural land in Gainesville.

Dan Kahn owns land formerly known as the Gainesville Organic Blueberry Farm, a 75-acre parcel located just east of the T.B. McPherson Center near Southeast 15th Street. He is working with Grace Grows to create a community-driven initiative on the land.

“...It was up for sale and it was being looked at by out-of-town developments who probably would turn it into cookie-cutter condos,” Kahn said. “Instead, we have the chance to consult and collaborate with the surrounding neighbors and co-create something that will contribute to the community in various ways."

Before Kahn was a landowner, he was a homeless case coordinator with the Social Security Administration for five years in Gainesville and saw firsthand the numerous conditions that people encountered when displaced.

He saw Grace Grows as a means to create new jobs.

“Working with the farms and taking all this produce, making a commercial kitchen is an opportunity for people to create and make foods for entrepreneurship by making meals by the plate,” he said.

Kahn’s next step is to send invitations out to neighboring farmers in the community to help in the creation of the micro food hub with the potential of a grant from the US Department of Agriculture.

The new hyperlocal agricultural effort at Grace Grows in southeast Gainesville is beginning to provide nutritious food to a community in need. (Photo courtesy of SOMEONE)
The hyperlocal agricultural effort at Grace Grows in southeast Gainesville seeks to provide nutritious food to a community in need. (Photo courtesy of Abigail Perret-Gentil)

LaTashia Mayze-Brimm, a board member of Grace Grows, sees the micro food hub as an incredible next step in the progress of their organization.

Mayze-Brimm personally relates to the people living in the southeast area, having been born and raised there. She still lives there today.

“As an African American, I have the lived experience of it. I approached it as something personal,” she said. “I have Crohn’s disease, so everything I eat — being able to access it is important.”

She recalls a time when she spent half of her day on the bus to get to a local Walmart since there were no nearby grocery stores nearby.

Imagine if you have a car, the amount of gas that will be used constantly to get to and from would double your spending on gas. For those who didn’t have a car, they would have to take numerous bus rides to get to the nearest stores, or perhaps walk an extra mile if neither option was available.

“I can walk over there or take the bus but then I can’t carry all the groceries and put it in the stroller,” she said. “Then there were no grocery stores so you would go to Family Dollar and get pasta or sauce.”

Perret-Gentil wants the micro food hub to operate in the same space and build capacity for the people in the community. While additionally, eliminating food insecurity, disparities, health and economic equity for those who are displaced living in Grace Grows.

Visit the organization's website at to learn more.

Jasmine is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing