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