ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) – Many residents around the Roanoke Valley don’t have access to healthy fruits and vegetables readily available for them in their neighborhoods. Carilion’s Morningside Urban Farm is looking to change that.
“There are social determinants, things that get in the way of people having good health, and so we were trying to address those needs and one of the ways we thought we could do that is actually listen to the people,” says Edie Naughton, a registered nurse and health educator for Community Health and Outreach at Carilion Clinic.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the city of Roanoke has approximately 12 food deserts. Educators at Carilion Clinic decided to conduct a community health assessment in 2015 to learn what factors were preventing local residents from the ability to have good health. Their study found that surrounding neighborhoods did not provide a healthy selection of products that could be readily available to them. With a joint collaboration with Carilion, the Roanoke City Parks and Recreation, and community partners, the Morningside Urban Farm was formed.
Every Monday throughout the season, the Urban Farm hosts their “Meet the Farmer, Work the Farm” program. This educational opportunity allows residents to learn how to plant and grow fresh fruits and vegetables from a local farmer. At the end of the session, volunteers are given produce harvested from the garden, which organizers say encourages them to eat healthier and try unique foods like acorn squash and Japanese eggplants.
“Our goal with this space is to teach people that small spaces can be productive and that it’s worth it to grow your own food,” says Cameron Terry, a farmer at Morningside Urban Farm.
The City of Roanoke has recently implemented a community garden beside the Urban Farm for residents who may not have proper space to maintain their own garden. For $30 dollars a year, people can rent a 100 square foot plot to grow their own selection of healthy food.
Organizers end the program with a big harvest celebration to acknowledge the community relationships that have been made and to look back on all the hard work that both the farmers and residents have done. This year’s event will take place Oct. 17th from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Naughton says Urban Farm enables the community to have better access to fresh produce while allowing them to grow and share with one another.
“I hope that community will grow, relationships will grow, and I hope that people will feel more of a partnership with the food that we grow in our earth and connect it more to their health and realize there’s a significant amount of good health that comes from eating your homegrown food,” says Naughton.
The Morningside Urban Farm provided by Carilion is located on 917 Morgan Ave. SE. For more information about their other programs, visit their website.