It may seem like an unlikely setting for a farm – its neighbors include a bustling gas station, a row of town homes, a Baptist church and an Asian restaurant – but for those who launched it, the Share the Harvest Community Farm is right where it’s needed most.
The new, 2-acre farm, on Poplar Tent Road behind McGill Baptist Church, will use volunteer labor drawn from the community to help fill the local food pantries in dire need of fresh, nutritious produce.
Established by the Cannon YMCA and supported through a host of local organizations and agencies, community leaders and government officials broke ground on the farm on the afternoon of Oct. 22. The church owns the land and has agreed to lease it to the Cannon YMCA for $5 per year.
Those behind the new venture hope it will remedy the county’s four existing food deserts – locations where fresh fruits, vegetables and other wholesome foods are in short supply.
“There is a real need here,” said Aaron Newton, the farm’s manager. “Cabarrus County is one of only 15 of the hundred counties in North Carolina that has four or more food deserts.”
According to a 2012 study from Cabarrus Health Alliance, which identified the food deserts, Cabarrus County has a higher childhood obesity rate than both North Carolina and the nation.
Mayor Scott Padgett, who drove one of the ceremonial golden shovels into the earth at the groundbreaking, said the new farm is a step in the right direction toward establishing healthier eating habits.
“There’s a real need for healthy food for a society that is in general, overweight,” said Padgett. “Also, many people who are not overweight are still not healthy because the things they eat aren’t really nourishing.”
Fields will grow a dozen or more kinds of crops, including beets, kale, collards, broccoli, tomatoes and cucumbers. Plans include a greenhouse to grow food year-round and fruit trees along the field’s perimeter.
Organizers designed the farm to be a community effort. The harvest will be distributed through Peachtree Market to food pantries affiliated with Cooperative Christian Ministry, Cabarrus Meals on Wheels and First Assembly Church.
The new farm will use volunteer labor – church groups, school classes, civic groups, or anyone else who likes to get dirty hands.
Volunteers can give as much or as little of their time as they want.
“This is our community space for those folks who are not necessarily able to do all the other work that it takes to keep a garden or farm running,” said Newton. “They can just step into this space, provide their heart, their soul and their labor in the growing, harvesting and packaging of this food.”
Planting won’t begin until April 15, but there’s still plenty to do before then, said Aaron, who asked anyone willing to help to contact the Cannon YMCA.
Padgett said the efforts he’s seen so far from volunteers makes him proud of the county’s residents.
“I’m glad to be living in a community where people look for ways to help each other,” said Padgett. “That people come together for a common good for their community.”
Lisa Thornton is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org