CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - It’s been two years since WBTV first broke the story of a major, million dollar urban farm project coming to Charlotte. There have been some issues that delayed getting started, but the project is now fully underway and organizers say it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Planting has begun at the Urban Farm at Aldersgate in northeast Charlotte. Ashanti Selassie is the farm manager and says, “By June I’ll have tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, okra, cataloo. All different kinds of fruits and vegetables."
The farm is on the site of a former rec center off Somerdale Lane, just behind the Aldersgate retirement community. Aldersgate leased the property to the Carolina Farm Trust for a dollar a year, with the understanding the farm would serve the local community. Zack Wyatt is director of the Carolina Farm Trust and says local farms like this allow people to know exactly where their food is coming from.
“It’s about the relationships,” according to Wyatt. “It’s coming down here, seeing what Ashanti is doing everyday. When you go to the grocery store, do you see labels anywhere for the most part? Not really. You know, there’s just a brand there. What’s behind that? But what is awesome about our farming community, their label is on the package you are getting. The accountability is right there.”
Wyatt says this type of farming is more important than ever, especially when you consider the impact the pandemic is having on the world wide food chain. The delivery system has been disrupted and some crops are going to waste because they can’t get to market.
Wyatt says we need to be more self sufficient. “We could be a model for the globe on utilizing the land we have,” says Wyatt, “utilizing the amount of farmers that we have, and new farmers that kind of want to come into the space...to support ourselves. And the more local food economy we have, the stronger that we’re going to be able to tackle these things when they happen in the future.”
Once the crops at the urban farm start coming in, Selassie believes it will have a big impact on the community. He says, “I want to just make sure again, that the community is fed good food. And I want to see it...I want to see it go to places that um, people know that again, this is something that’s attainable. Maintain the food systems...is attainable. Having access to organic food...it’s attainable. And I want to know that, in this time frame, that farmers are still here. We’re not going anywhere. We’re not afraid.”
Several organizations have contributed to the urban farm to help get it established, including Accenture, Lend Scout Mortgage, BCBS of North Carolina, Carver Pressley Realtors, and the Foundation for the Carolinas - but the Farm Trust continues to look for more supporters.
The initial crops at the urban farm should start coming in soon, next month which means more locally grown food will be available to the community.