Apr 06, 2020 - UNC Charlotte Urban Institue
Youth working at the Seeds of Change Urban Farm, a quarter-acre farm in the West Boulevard Corridor where neighbors grow fresh, healthy food for the community – a response to the lack of grocery stores in their neighborhoods. Photo courtesy Rickey Hall
Mecklenburg County leaders are trying to find solutions for a worsening food crisis in the county’s poorest neighborhoods.
Nearly 15 percent of the county’s population lives in what the U.S. Department of Agriculture calls food deserts — low-income communities where most residents don’t have access to a full-service grocery store or supermarket carrying nutritious food. That figure exceeds the national average of 11 percent and North Carolina’s statewide average of 13 percent.
“Population density probably has a lot to do with” the higher number, said Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris. “If you look at Mecklenburg County, it’s mostly city. In rural communities, people can have gardens. People need cars to get around. They can get to the grocery store.”
But that’s not reality for many living in the county’s low-income neighborhoods, where poverty, lack of transportation and race intersect with poor diets, health problems and gaps in resources. Despite spending $160 million last year to help feed needy families, the problem persists in Mecklenburg.
“When I hear stats (about food deserts), I know it’s true because I lived there,” said Ashanti Selassie, who manages an urban farm intended to fight food insecurity in east Charlotte. “I know what availability of food people have in the east, west, north and south of the city. I know what they don’t have access to.”
So does lifelong west Charlottean Brenda Campbell. When she was a little girl, she could walk to the grocery store to buy fresh fruit, meat and vegetables. Not anymore.
“Back in the day, we used to have a grocery store on this side of town,” said Campbell, 60. “Things change. The rooftops change. On the westside, there’s nothing but convenience stores or Dollar Generals. The food is limited; there’s no fresh meat, no fresh vegetables.”
That level of scarcity has drawn ire from county commissioners, who renewed talks about food deserts during the county’s January budget retreat. They mulled possible solutions, including whether offering economic incentives to grocery stores could sway them to set up shop in impoverished areas.
A few months later, commission chair George Dunlap said county officials aren’t sure those direct incentives are a viable option.
“The likelihood of enticing a grocery store (to a low-income neighborhood) is not very good,” he said. “The grocery store chains are concerned about their bottom (line).”
“It’s not a simple matter of there’s poor people, so stores don’t want to locate there,” said Peter Zeiler, the county’s economic development director. “There are access issues, population density issues and, unfortunately, income issues, as well. The lower the wealth density in a neighborhood, the harder it is for a food store to open up.”
Officials now are looking to bolster community partnerships to make up the difference. For years, the county’s worked with nonprofits, churches and companies to feed families in food deserts. Yet, all those efforts — and all those millions of dollars — haven’t dented the problem.
“No, it’s not enough,” Harris said. “We still have people who are hungry and are not getting the foods they need.”
Food deserts and grocery wars
The existence of food deserts in one of North Carolina’s wealthiest counties is nothing new. It continues to underscore the growing divide between the haves and the have-nots at the same time Charlotte’s grocery wars are intensifying.
That dichotomy was front and center during the budget retreat, prompting a series of impassioned speeches from commissioners frustrated with major grocery stores overlooking less-affluent communities.
“I look at those apartments (uptown) and they put major food outlets in those places, yet they can’t come to poor people’s neighborhoods,” said Commissioner Vilma Leake, who represents District 2, parts of which are considered a food desert.
“People can’t pay their property taxes. They’re being displaced. They can’t eat. It’s unacceptable,” said District 4 Commissioner Mark Jerrell. “The corporate community, those that profit from people in our community, have a responsibility to come to the table with us to discuss what their contribution will be to support people that are in the crescent.”
The “crescent” is a longstanding demographic pattern of Mecklenburg County’s higher-poverty neighborhoods to the west, east and north of uptown Charlotte. It’s also where officials say many can’t afford healthier foods.
“Whether it’s poverty, issues with chronic diseases, with HIV, with housing, if you look at the maps where these issues are highest in our community, they all look the same,” said Harris, the public health director.
County data shows that 64 percent of adults in Mecklenburg are either overweight or obese, the highest concentration of whom live in the low-income communities just outside of uptown. Those same neighborhoods tend to have higher rates of poverty, low education attainment, chronic disease and death. Officials say the lack of nutritious food in these communities is one of the leading drivers of those negative outcomes.
“In many ways, it links back to those socioeconomic factors that prevent people from being successful,” Harris said.
Jan 29, 2020 - BrandbuildersDunstan Group
As our metropolitan areas grow, they gobble up the farmland that used to feed them. Our next guests are trying to keep the food you eat local, by supporting the agriculture that can keep farmers growing when cities expand. Zack Wyatt and Tia Wackerhagen work with Carolina Farm Trust, whose goal is to help small, local farmers stay in the business of bringing food to your table.
Jan 07, 2020 - Carolina Business ReviewNews Release
Catch our executive director, Zack
Wyatt,on a recent episode of Carolina Business Review. Zack Wyatt, Carolina Farm Trust
Guests from recent dialogues include (top left) Peter Gwaltney – NC Bankers, Linda Brown – Asheboro Chamber, Larry Appel – Fresh Market CEO, Zack Wyatt – Carolina Farm Trust, Joe Waters – Capita, Eric Davis – NC Board of Ed. Chair, Bernie Mazyck – SC Asso. of Community Dev., Catherine Truitt – Western Governors Univ., Brian Etheridge – Leadership NC and Chris William. — with Carolina Farm Trust, Capita, Western Governors University, South Carolina Association for Community Economic Development, Asheboro/Randolph Chamber of Commerce, Leadership North Carolina and The Fresh Market.
Dec 12, 2019 - Charlotte TalksNews ReleaseThe Urban Farm at Aldersgate
CHARLOTTE, NC, December 12, 2019: Carolina Farm Trust (CFT), a Charlotte based non-profit focused on rebuilding the regional food system from production to consumption, has received seed funding from Foundation For The Carolinas, Carver Pressley, Realtors, and other Corporate Donors for The Urban Farm at Aldersgate, located in east Charlotte.
Leased from the Aldersgate Retirement Community in April of 2018, the site will cultivate a variety of crops that meet the needs of the immediate community. Local residents will contribute, through feedback sessions with the farm, to diversified and sustainably grown produce, beginning in the spring of 2020.
“We feel the Carolina Farm Trust is an organization on the forefront of addressing food security, food access and eliminating the “class-system” of food in the Charlotte area. We are thrilled The Urban Farm at Aldersgate is coming to life,” said Suzanne Pugh, CEO of the Aldersgate Retirement Community.
The desire of the CFT is to create a living example of upward and economic mobility by creating a career opportunity for a qualified candidate in building a regional food network. The initial round of funding will enable CFT to activate on the first step in The Urban Farm at Aldersgate master plan by hiring and training a new farm manager.
According to Brian Collier, Executive Vice President of The Foundation of Carolinas, “We’re excited to make this investment in Carolina Farm Trust because they address a number of key focus areas for the Foundation. Certainly, food security is a major issue. But the farm will also be a place to build social capital between diverse groups, serve as a living laboratory for students, and perhaps most importantly, help develop specialized agricultural and business skills that can lead to economic mobility. I really think the ingredients are there for something very special to emerge from that small plot of land at Aldersgate.”
Additional financial support for The Urban Farm at Aldersgate includes Carver Pressley, Realtors, as well as several anonymous corporate donors. “We are 75 percent of the way towards realizing the funding requirements for activating The Urban Farm at Aldersgate and are hopeful that additional conversations with area Charlotte businesses and leaders will allow us to begin measurable work in 2020,” said Zack Wyatt, executive director and founder of CFT. “Our intent is for this site, along with the Rural Farm at Mills Grove, to be building blocks toward creating a farm network all across the city, making all of Charlotte food secure.”
About Carolina Farm Trust:
Established in 2015, Carolina Farm Trust is an area non-profit with a mission to support small, community farmers in the Carolinas and, in return, promote the farm-to-table movement, especially in Charlotte. Through collaboration with local landowners, the organization fosters an ecosystem of sustainable farming by building the next generation of Carolina farmers, while protecting our farmland. Originating from the desire to shift the energy and money being poured into commercial agriculture policy, lobbying, and litigation to small, community farmers in a more direct manner, Carolina Farm Trust helps small rural and urban farmers with purchasing equipment, leasing or purchasing land, and in bringing their products to market. Visit https://carolinafarmtrust.org/.
Sep 17, 2019 -
Carolina Farm Trust, a local nonprofit that helps farmers access land, equipment and marketing resources, has secured a 10-year lease on an 11-acre parcel of land being revitalized into a new working farm opening spring 2020.
The property is located in Fairview, NC about 25 miles east of Charlotte and CFT has had it for about a year. The land owner reached out to the organization with a desire to see the farm utilized in a positive way upon retiring.
CFT is leasing the property for the tax value and has first right of refusal to purchase it if and when the owner decides to sell, a move founder and executive director Zack Wyatt plans to execute.
“The biggest thing that little parcel can do is give a visual example for the Charlotte public of what it means to be sustainable,” he says.
CFT is subleasing the land to three independent organizations — Nebedaye Farms, Serendipity Flowers, and Crown Town Compost — creating a sort of co-working model for the collaborative farm.
The goal is to help create a circular economy with each producer supporting the others.
Crown Town’s compost made from Mecklenburg County food waste will help grow Serendipity’s flowers that support the bee population that pollinates Nebedaye’s produce that’s available for public sale and could return full circle as compost.
“The average person doesn’t know what [sustainable] means,” says Wyatt. “I think this can be a very good living example of this revolving circular economy and how to do it.”
The farm will have public-facing activities, including pick-your-own flower fields and a farm stand where you can purchase Nebedaye’s produce and Serendipity’s pre-made bouquets. Wyatt says he also anticipates quarterly and annual events on the land.
For its part, CFT functions as a facilitator that gets farmers onto the land and then gets out of the way. “As soon as we have a farm manager, we’re stepping back,” says Wyatt. “We’re not there to tell them what to do. As long as our ideologies are the same, that’s about it. Go to town.”
Sep 16, 2019 - Charlotte FiveNews Release
Imagine a city with zero food waste. A city in which leftover food is turned into compost and is then continually used as soil to produce new crops.
This concept is called a “circular economy,” and the local nonprofit Carolina Farm Trust has recently acquired an 11-acre farm in Union County to begin what will be a 10 year journey of changing the way the community interacts with the lifecycle of food.Read more here: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/charlottefive/c5-around-town/article236109863.html#storylink=cpy
Courtesy of Crown Town Compost
“We are creating this farm to strengthen our community — to create a cycle in which people in our area can both give to and receive from the farm,” said Zack Wyatt, founder and executive director of the Carolina Farm Trust.
Nebedaye, Serendipity and Crown Town will be working in tandem to replicate a circular economy. Compost created from Crown Town food waste donations will be used as soil to grow fruits and vegetables for Nebedaye Farms, as well as flowers for the Serendipity U-pick flower patch and petal cart.
Crown Town Compost
Crown Town Compost’s mission is to change the cycle of food waste in the Queen City. Major companies like the Omni Hotel and local favorites like Not Just Coffee are actively working with Crown Town to keep food waste out of Charlotte landfills.
Instead of paying to dispose of food waste in a landfill, Crown Town urges community members to bring their waste to the farm and use it to create nutrient rich soil for farming and gardening.
Jun 20, 2018 - Charlotte Talks
WFAE 90.7 Charlotte’s NPR News Source –
“On the next Charlotte Talks, a look into food insecurity. The queen city is populated with areas known as food deserts, areas in which it is difficult or impossible to buy affordable fresh food. We sit down with a panel of guests to discuss what can be done about this.
As of 2015 nearly 90,000 of Charlotte’s residents don’t have access to healthy foods. Charlotte’s poorer areas are particularly hard hit by this.
This lack of food security for many of Charlotte’s residents highlights the uneven economic growth in a city that is already ranked among the worst in America for providing opportunities for its residents to lift themselves out of poverty.
Zack Wyatt, director, Carolina Farm Trust
Philip Otienburu, director, Center for Renewable Energy & Sustainability, Johnson C. Smith University
Dimple Ajmera, Council Member, City of Charlotte”
May 03, 2018 - News ReleaseThe Urban Farm at AldersgateWBTV
This urban farm concept will expand access to healthy food options in Charlotte’s east side.
Aldersgate and Carolina Farm Trust have teamed up on that initiative, called Urban Farm at Aldersgate. Plans call for that 6.7-acre working farm to serve as a food source — and learning center — for the community.
“Part of our mission at Aldersgate is taking care of our neighbors,” says Erin Barbee, Aldersgate’s director of mission advancement. “Access to fresh, healthy food should be a given for everyone in our community.”
Aldersgate operates a 231-acre continuing care retirement community.
The farm will sit adjacent to that campus. Aldersgate has leased that land to Carolina Farm Trust for the next decade at $1 per year.
The trust will be responsible for farm management and operations.
It is working with Insight Architects and general contractor G.L. Wilson on a master plan to transform what is currently unused tennis courts, a pool and outbuildings into a working urban farm.
Implementing that plan is projected to cost about $3 million.
Urban Farm looks to fill a gap for those living in poverty or food-insecure homes, where there is a need for reliable fresh, healthy food options.
“Locally grown, whole food – the kind with little to no processing between where it’s grown and where it’s consumed – should not be out of reach for anyone living in a prosperous city like Charlotte,” says Zack Wyatt, founder and executive director of Carolina Farm Trust.
The farm will differ from a traditional farmers market in that it will grow its own produce year-round. The initial planting will include a diverse group of staple crops – tomatoes, kale, spinach and cucumbers.
That will continue to evolve based on community needs.
“This is a culturally diverse neighborhood,” Wyatt said. “Residents may need ingredients that you don’t generally find in your supermarket.”
Urban Farm also will feature an aquaponics system, mobile kitchen, beehives for pollination and a hoop house with produce for sale.
Meat and eggs will be sourced from farms within 100 miles of Aldersgate.
It should be operational this fall.
That venture will be open daily and looks to serve as a community resource.
For example, it will be the location of quarterly farm-to-table dinners and a source of fresh produce in Aldersgate’s culinary program. Residents who wish to volunteer to work in the urban farm will have that opportunity.
It also stands to serve as a learning lab for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, allowing students to learn about farming and see where their food comes from. The mobile kitchen allows for cooking demonstrations and participation in farm-to-table events.
“Building a hyper-local, self-sustaining food system helps protect the entire community,” Wyatt says.
Eventually the farm will provide Community Supported Agriculture — or CSA — boxes filled with produce, eggs and meat for those that preorder.
Urban Farm will accept both EBT and SNAP as payment.
It will hold a dinner June 7 to introduce the concept.
The event will be held at the Charlotte Museum of History and feature a menu inspired by exhibits there.
Chefs from Heirloom, The Yolk, Project 658, Yafo, 5 Church and Fern will each create one course.
Locally sourced drinks will be served from Dover Vineyard, Shelton Vineyard and Resident Culture craft beer. Mixologist Bob Peters of The Punch Room will create a specialty cocktail for the evening.
Brie Arthur, author of “The Foodscape Revolution,” will deliver the keynote address. Tickets cost $125 and are available at CarolinaFarmTrust.org or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Jennifer Thomas Staff Writer, Charlotte Business Journal
May 03, 2018 - Farm DinnerNews Release
Urban Farm – a concept that will be celebrated at a June 7 dinner – is designed to nourish, educate and inspire a whole community
Charlotte, N.C., (May 3, 2018) – Aldersgate and Carolina Farm Trust are collaborating on a major agricultural and cultural initiative that will continue the Aldersgate-led transformation of Charlotte’s east side. The nonprofit, 6.7-acre Urban Farm at Aldersgate will serve as a food source – and learning lab – for the eastside community and beyond. Both EBT and SNAP will be accepted, ensuring the working (and year-round) farm is truly a resource for all. Plans call for the first seeds to be planted this spring and for the farm to be operational by fall.
Aldersgate’s mission goes beyond serving the elders who call the 231-acre campus home. It includes engaging the community’s neighbors.
“Part of our mission at Aldersgate is taking care of our neighbors,” said Erin Barbee, Aldersgate’s director of mission advancement. “Access is to fresh, healthy food should be a given for everyone in our community. But in some parts of the east side, people are living in a food desert. That’s not acceptable to us. Eating fresh, local food should not be a privilege that comes with social standing. It’s a human right that has measurable health and economic benefits.”
To introduce the concept, Carolina Farm Trust will host “A Night at the Museum” on Thursday, June 7 from 6 to 9 p.m. The “movable feast” features a menu inspired by exhibits at the Charlotte Museum of History, the site of the dinner. Chefs from Heirloom, The Yolk, Project 658, Yafo, 5 Church and Fern will each create one course. Locally sourced libations come from Dover Vineyard, Shelton Vineyard and Resident Culture craft beer. Mixologist Bob Peters of The Punch Room will create a specialty cocktail for the evening. Brie Arthur, author of “The Foodscape Revolution,” will deliver the keynote. Tickets ($125 each) are available at by clicking here or by contacting email@example.com.
The farm will feature an aquaponics system, mobile kitchen, beehives for pollination, and a hoop house with produce for sale. It will differ from a traditional farmers market in that it will grow its own produce year-round and source other foods – meat and eggs, for instance – from farms within 100 miles of Aldersgate. The Urban Farm is expected to be open daily and to become a hub of community engagement for Aldersgate residents and their eastside neighbors.
Aldersgate bought the parcel of land adjacent to their campus in 2008. The continuing care retirement community will lease, for the next decade, all 6.7 acres of land for $1 a year to Carolina Farm Trust. The Farm Trust will be responsible for farm management and operations and will report to Aldersgate’s board of directors.
Carolina Farm Trust is working with Insight Architecture and G.L. Wilson, a general contractor, to create a master plan that will turn what is now unused tennis courts, a pool and outbuildings into a working urban farm.
Zack Wyatt, founder and executive director of Carolina Farm Trust, is seeking a full-time farm manager and, eventually, a second, full-time staffer to help manage the farm. “Healthy food should be accessible to everyone,” he said. “Locally grown, whole food – the kind with little to no processing between where it’s grown and where it’s consumed – should not be out of reach for anyone living in a prosperous city like Charlotte. I’m excited to be part of a movement designed to make healthy food available to folks who may not be used to having access to it.”
“Many of us are used to ordering things – including food – online and having it delivered almost immediately,” Wyatt said. “That kind of fast transaction can prevent you from understanding how really fragile our food delivery system actually is. Building a hyper-local, self-sustaining food system helps protect the entire community.”
The farm will be essential to life at Aldersgate. It will be the location of quarterly farm-to-table dinners and a source of fresh produce in Aldersgate’s culinary program. Residents who wish to volunteer to work in the urban farm will have that opportunity.
But the farm is meant to provide for more than just Aldersgate residents. Aldersgate leaders envision it as a place where residents of east Charlotte, NoDa and Plaza Midwood will come to shop, as a learning lab for nine CMS Title I schools (where students will learn about farming and see where their food comes from) and as a resource for the broader Charlotte region. Eventually, the farm will provide weekly Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes of produce, eggs and meats for those who chose to join and pre-order.
The farm plans to bring a mobile kitchen capable of supporting the Community Culinary School of Charlotte, select Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and other culinary programs to host cooking demonstrations and farm-to-table events.
Partnerships with other nonprofits and health organizations will be an important part of the Urban Farm.
Since about 15 percent of Mecklenburg County residents live in poverty – with a high concentration in the east Charlotte area – and since 34 percent of Mecklenburg County children live in food-insecure homes, the need for a convenient, reliable source of fresh, healthy food is evident. The Urban Farm intends to fill that gap.
Wyatt wants to ensure the farm provides what neighbors want. The initial planting will include a diverse group of staple crops – tomatoes, kale, spinach, cucumbers. Aldersgate leaders have said that the farm must provide culturally relevant offerings to eastside neighbors.
“This is a culturally diverse neighborhood,” Wyatt said. “Residents may need ingredients that you don’t generally find in your supermarket. If customers tell me they want oxtail, I know a source where I can get it.”
The Urban Farm is part of Aldersgate’s Gateway Promise, the growth plan that maximizes the community’s campus and invigorates east Charlotte in a way that positively impacts youth, family and senior living.
Founded in 1943 as The Methodist Home – a home for retired Methodist ministers – Aldersgate is a nonprofit Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) with a legacy of nearly 70 years of caring for seniors. Today, about 450 residents call Aldersgate home and have access to all levels of care on the wooded, 231-acre campus. As a part of its mission to engage and strengthen the greater community, Aldersgate partners with like-minded nonprofit organizations, business and schools to bring cultural, educational and social capital opportunity to Charlotte’s eastside residents. Aldersgate is on Charlotte’s east side at 3800 Shamrock Drive. Learn more at aldersgateccrc.com
About Carolina Farm Trust
Carolina Farm Trust’s mission is to protect farmland and foster an ecosystem of sustainable farming. The nonprofit works with existing farms and new start-up farmers across the Carolinas to assist in getting them the equipment and land they need to operate sustainably and successfully. Small farmers face an uphill battle to be profitable and sustainable. The Carolina Farm Trust is funded through grants and donations. Learn more at carolinafarmtrust.org
FOR INFORMATION CONTACT:
Erin Barbee, 704.605.3239 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Kathy Rowan, 704.591.8945 or email@example.com