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Fertilizing a food desert

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An urban farm and community garden has sprouted at 500 Hoke Street in southeast Raleigh.  Though it’s only two miles from the capital’s trendy eateries, the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle farm is at the heart of a “food desert.”

Most of its neighbors can’t afford to dine in the nearby, and upscale, downtown restaurants.  And there are no supermarkets nearby where these locals can find healthy groceries for their families.  Urban food deserts typically rely on fast-food joints and convenience stores, where calories are cheap but not necessarily nutritious. That’s a recipe for the growing incidence of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and other costly ailments related to poor diets.

Hoke Street turned out to be an ideal location for the urban farm and training center for Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, the anti-hunger nonprofit serving Raleigh and seven surrounding counties for the last 25 years. The new three-acre site now includes community garden beds for residents wishing to grow their own produce, and an urban farm and training center for interns learning to cultivate and sell healthy food.

Katie Murray.

Katie Murray.

 

“We set up this space so people could see how food is grown, and grow it themselves” said Katie Murray, who coordinates IFFS urban agriculture training programs.  We visited during the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s annual farm tour.

Half a dozen families are growing vegetables in the new IFFS community garden. And there’s an open raised bed for curious neighbors who want to taste what’s sprouting — red leaf lettuce when we visited.

IFFS also has cultivated a partnership with Will Allen, the now-famous MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellow behind Growing Power, the organization teaching young people around the country about innovative sustainable practices for urban farming enterprises.  IFFS has four interns through the program, working at the Raleigh farm and learning about composting, vermiculture, aquaponics, hoop houses, mushrooms, micro-greens and more.

Building a greenhouse.

Building a greenhouse.

Loading up the truck with community-grown produce.

Loading up the truck with community-grown produce.

 

“The goal is to grow food here and sell it through local farmers’ markets and to restaurants,” Murray said. The interns are gaining experience to develop their own small enterprises through a collaborative local alliance.

The farm is adjacent to a 14,000 square-foot warehouse, where IFFS stores local food gleaned from farms and delivers it to neighborhoods through its mobile market program.  The IFFS warehouse also serves as a community grocery store during a monthly market on fourth Fridays.

Inter-Faith Food Shuttle also has a Teaching Farm on Tryon Road, with incubator plots for those ready to start their own farming enterprises.

Learn more at http://www.foodshuttle.org.

A hand painted sign welcomes you to this urban oasis.

A hand painted sign welcomes you to this urban oasis.


This story reposted, with permission, from Sustainable Grub.

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