How fish and plants are working together to connect cultures through 100 Gardens

Every day that I interview someone for a CharlotteFive story, I learn something new. I am often inspired. And sometimes I am in awe. This was one of those days when all three were in play. Sam Fleming, 28, met me at the Sanctuary to tell me about 100 Gardens.

History of 100 Gardens

In 2010, Ron Morgan, a retired but prominent Charlotte architect, was asked to visit Haiti to find solutions to rebuild after the devastation of the earthquake. This visit prompted Morgan to look at the lack of food sources for the people of Haiti. He decided to establish a relationship with the community and build a hydroponic system there. (Hydroponics is a method of growing crops without soil.)

Morgan came back to Charlotte to seek out expert advice. He was directed to George Powell, who had operated the hydroponic system for lettuce when he worked at Harris Teeter. Powell had gone through tough times and was homeless, but willing to help in any way. Morgan took him in, and together they sketched out a plan. Within months, Powell died of cancer.

Even on his deathbed, Powell was still hopeful that he could help Haiti. Morgan connected with Sam Fleming who was managing a local hydroponics store in 2011. Sam jumped all-in to the project, but he suggested they build an aquaponic system instead because it was a more complete system for food production.

An aquaponic system combines hydroponic and aquaculture (cultivating fish) methods. It uses waste produced by aquatic animals as nutrients for plants growing in water; the plants then purify the water.

The prototype was built at Morgan’s home in Dilworth. It attracted the attention of the neighborhood kids and they started teaching them how to operate it. Parents started talking about how their kids, who were not fond of science, were discussing Ph levels and nitrifying bacteria.

Sam Fleming and Ron Morgan

Morgan and Fleming realized that they could introduce children to science and food if they could get into the schools. They contacted the state about options, and were able to get a contract with a local juvenile detention center. News spread quickly about what they were doing and schools started requesting their services.

The level of interest from the community sparked Morgan and Fleming to form 100 Gardens in 2012. The name for their non-profit organization came from the concept that for every two gardens in the United States, they would have one garden in Haiti.


100 Gardens now

100 Gardens has partnered with several organizations and schools to progress their mission. They have built aquaponic systems at Stonewall Jackson Youth Development Center, a maximum security juvenile detention center in Concord; and Garinger, South Iredell and Myers Park High Schools. They also built two in the vicinity of Port De Prince, Haiti.

Students are collaborating and communicating between gardens in Haiti and Charlotte. For example, South Iredell High School art and French students made a training video in French for the Haitian people.


Morgan’s idea to grow food has expanded to an organization that spans across cultures, disciplines, generations and languages. Morgan, who is battling cancer, just last week received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the White House, signed by President Obama.


How can you get involved?

– Donate or volunteer land. 100 Gardens is looking for land for urban farms. It needs to be in close proximity to NoDa.

– Participate in CSA through 100 Gardens. Look for more information on their Facebook page and website.

– Volunteer to help. Email

Photos: Drea Photo Artistry, Sam Fleming