Urban Farm – a concept that will be celebrated at a June 7 dinner – is designed to nourish, educate and inspire a whole community
Charlotte, N.C., (May 3, 2018) – Aldersgate and Carolina Farm Trust are collaborating on a major agricultural and cultural initiative that will continue the Aldersgate-led transformation of Charlotte’s east side. The nonprofit, 6.7-acre Urban Farm at Aldersgate will serve as a food source – and learning lab – for the eastside community and beyond. Both EBT and SNAP will be accepted, ensuring the working (and year-round) farm is truly a resource for all. Plans call for the first seeds to be planted this spring and for the farm to be operational by fall.
Aldersgate’s mission goes beyond serving the elders who call the 231-acre campus home. It includes engaging the community’s neighbors.
“Part of our mission at Aldersgate is taking care of our neighbors,” said Erin Barbee, Aldersgate’s director of mission advancement. “Access is to fresh, healthy food should be a given for everyone in our community. But in some parts of the east side, people are living in a food desert. That’s not acceptable to us. Eating fresh, local food should not be a privilege that comes with social standing. It’s a human right that has measurable health and economic benefits.”
To introduce the concept, Carolina Farm Trust will host “A Night at the Museum” on Thursday, June 7 from 6 to 9 p.m. The “movable feast” features a menu inspired by exhibits at the Charlotte Museum of History, the site of the dinner. Chefs from Heirloom, The Yolk, Project 658, Yafo, 5 Church and Fern will each create one course. Locally sourced libations come 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. Tickets ($125 each) are available at CarolinaFarmTrust.org or by contacting [email protected].
The farm will feature an aquaponics system, mobile kitchen, beehives for pollination, and a hoop house with produce for sale. It will differ from a traditional farmers market in that it will grow its own produce year-round and source other foods – meat and eggs, for instance – from farms within 100 miles of Aldersgate. The Urban Farm is expected to be open daily and to become a hub of community engagement for Aldersgate residents and their eastside neighbors.
Aldersgate bought the parcel of land adjacent to their campus in 2008. The continuing care retirement community will lease, for the next decade, all 6.7 acres of land for $1 a year to Carolina Farm Trust. The Farm Trust will be responsible for farm management and operations and will report to Aldersgate’s board of directors.
Carolina Farm Trust is working with Insight Architecture and G.L. Wilson, a general contractor, to create a master plan that will turn what is now unused tennis courts, a pool and outbuildings into a working urban farm.
Zack Wyatt, founder and executive director of Carolina Farm Trust, is seeking a full-time farm manager and, eventually, a second, full-time staffer to help manage the farm. “Healthy food should be accessible to everyone,” he said. “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. I’m excited to be part of a movement designed to make healthy food available to folks who may not be used to having access to it.”
“Many of us are used to ordering things – including food – online and having it delivered almost immediately,” Wyatt said. “That kind of fast transaction can prevent you from understanding how really fragile our food delivery system actually is. Building a hyper-local, self-sustaining food system helps protect the entire community.”
The farm will be essential to life at Aldersgate. 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.
But the farm is meant to provide for more than just Aldersgate residents. Aldersgate leaders envision it as a place where residents of east Charlotte, NoDa and Plaza Midwood will come to shop, as a learning lab for nine CMS Title I schools (where students will learn about farming and see where their food comes from) and as a resource for the broader Charlotte region. Eventually, the farm will provide weekly Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes of produce, eggs and meats for those who chose to join and pre-order.
The farm plans to bring a mobile kitchen capable of supporting the Community Culinary School of Charlotte, select Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and other culinary programs to host cooking demonstrations and farm-to-table events.
Partnerships with other nonprofits and health organizations will be an important part of the Urban Farm.
Since about 15 percent of Mecklenburg County residents live in poverty – with a high concentration in the east Charlotte area – and since 34 percent of Mecklenburg County children live in food-insecure homes, the need for a convenient, reliable source of fresh, healthy food is evident. The Urban Farm intends to fill that gap.
Wyatt wants to ensure the farm provides what neighbors want. The initial planting will include a diverse group of staple crops – tomatoes, kale, spinach, cucumbers. Aldersgate leaders have said that the farm must provide culturally relevant offerings to eastside neighbors.
“This is a culturally diverse neighborhood,” Wyatt said. “Residents may need ingredients that you don’t generally find in your supermarket. If customers tell me they want oxtail, I know a source where I can get it.”
The Urban Farm is part of Aldersgate’s Gateway Promise, the growth plan that maximizes the community’s campus and invigorates east Charlotte in a way that positively impacts youth, family and senior living.
Note to editor: Please click here to find the Master Plan rendering.
Founded in 1943 as The Methodist Home – a home for retired Methodist ministers – Aldersgate is a nonprofit Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) with a legacy of nearly 70 years of caring for seniors. Today, about 450 residents call Aldersgate home and have access to all levels of care on the wooded, 231-acre campus. As a part of its mission to engage and strengthen the greater community, Aldersgate partners with like-minded nonprofit organizations, business and schools to bring cultural, educational and social capital opportunity to Charlotte’s eastside residents. Aldersgate is on Charlotte’s east side at 3800 Shamrock Drive. Learn more at aldersgateccrc.com
About Carolina Farm Trust
Carolina Farm Trust’s mission is to protect farmland and foster an ecosystem of sustainable farming. The nonprofit works with existing farms and new start-up farmers across the Carolinas to assist in getting them the equipment and land they need to operate sustainably and successfully. Small farmers face an uphill battle to be profitable and sustainable. The Carolina Farm Trust is funded through grants and donations. Learn more at carolinafarmtrust.org