Urban farming coming to local neighborhood

Urban farming coming to local neighborhood
June 29
04:00 2017

Hundreds of people, both young and old came together last weekend to celebrate one of the city’s most historic neighborhoods, the Boston-Thurmond Community.

Since the inaugural celebration in 1992, residents from the past and present have come together to celebrate the rich heritage of the neighborhood located near Cherry Street and University Parkway that operates more like a family than anything else.

This year’s celebration, held in the parking lot of St. Johns C.M.E. Church, included free food, live entertainment, vendors and free health checks provided by the Winston-Salem State University “Rams Know H.O.W.” mobile clinic.

City Council member Denise Adams, and other city officials kick-started the celebration by breaking ground on the $1.1 million Hydroponics Aquaponics Urban Farming Center located near Kimberley Park, and the Martin Luther King Recreation Center. According to Adams, who represents the North Ward, the center will provide fresh food for a community in dire need.

Last August, the Winston-Salem City Council approved the new facility that will deliver fresh produce to the Kimberley Park community, which is a food desert, meaning that there’s not a grocery store within one mile.

According to statistics from the Food Atlas Research Atlas, Winston-Salem has 21 food deserts, many located in the inner city. Adams said the urban farming center will also help residents learn entry level job skills that they can transfer to the innovative opportunities available throughout the city.

She said, “Urban agriculture is a way for urban dwellers to grow their own food or at least have access to locally grown food. The community will establish a foundation of improved health, social interaction, and economic prosperity.

“As you drove here today, you didn’t see any supermarkets, and you didn’t see any farmers markets,” Adams said. “And you didn’t see any corner markets selling fresh produce. Urban farming will contribute to that and hydroponics aquaponics is part of the innovation of urban farming.”

Hydroponics involves growing produce with water instead of soil and aquaponics involves farming fish, whose waste will provide nutrients for plants to grow.

The hydroponics aquaponics center is being made possible by a partnership with H.O.P.E. (Helping Our People Eat) of Winston-Salem Inc. and Goler Community Development Corporation (CDC). Michael Suggs, president of the Goler CDC, said they are working with the people in the neighborhood to help make the center come to life. During the community day event, residents had the opportunity to make suggestions on the types of programs they would like to see in the center. 

“This is a community initiative. This isn’t something we’re doing on our own,” said Suggs. “When we think about community development, it’s more than just putting up buildings. We have to build our people.”

Last August at the city approval of the project, it was disclosed that the city is leasing nearly three acres for 25 years to Goler CDC with up to three 25-year extensions. The city also authorized up to $962,000 to help with the project. There are expected to be five jobs created at the facility. H.O.P.E. will be subleasing part of the land for a new facility it will construct there.

H.O.P.E. provides more than 1,200 meals and 1,500 pounds of produce each weekend for children and families in need. Co-founder Marty Tennille said she was excited to be expanding into the Boston-Thurmond Community. A retired pediatrician, Tennille started H.O.P.E. in 2014 with her husband, Ben. She said the new center will allow the nonprofit to reach more families in the community and build relationships with other organizations. 

“With this new facility H.O.P.E. will be able to increase significantly what we do each week,” she continued. “Having a facility here, we will be able to partner with other agencies to provide classes and services to the neighborhood.”

Tennille said along with courses on gardening the center will host healthy cooking classes, diabetic nutrition classes, exercise classes, and financial courses. For children, the center will hold STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) classes, a reading club and a running program. 

Following the groundbreaking, the excitement continued throughout the afternoon during the community day celebration. Before joining in the fun, members of the Boston-Thurmond Neighborhood Association, Sandy Stinson and Patricia Caldwell, said they were excited about the future of their neighborhood.

“I think this will be great for the Boston-Thurmond Community,” Stinson said.

Caldwell, who has been a member of the Boston-Thurmond Neighborhood Association since 1992, said she was excited to see what the future holds as well.

She said, “It feels good to be a part of the growth of our community. I can’t wait to see everything up and running. It’s a great day in the Boston-Thurmond Neighborhood.” 

Chronicle archives contributed to this report.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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