By Betty Hobbs, Director of Community Impact: Southside
What can you do about a community full of food deserts? Many people feel this situation is hopeless, and there are no solutions. However, in Petersburg, a group of knowledgeable, caring folks have demonstrated something can be done to address the shortage of healthy foods in their community. They wanted to teach the community how to help themselves. So, they applied for and received grants, supplied the space, and now they share creative food growing techniques and collaborate with the community to show their product and teach others.
In Petersburg, at 453 Harding St., where the building stood vacant with no plans for use, Duron Chavis took the challenge and the Harding Street Urban Agricultural Center was born. When you walk into the building you see all sorts of growing apparatus, including tower gardens, aquaponic centers, hydroponic centers, shelves with seedlings on them, solar lighting, and areas where other plants will be grown at a later time. You walk outside and across the street you see where, on the coldest day of the year, over 200 community volunteers gathered and built raised growing beds and readied the soil for new seeds. A few doors down you see where a resident has taken the initiative to build a garden in his own yard. Down the street a ways you see where orchards have been planted with the anticipation of new fruit arriving soon.
Once people see it, get involved in it, they decide to take it on themselves. A community that was once a food desert now becomes a community growing their own food and sharing it. Everybody benefits…everybody wins. Now this product can be shared in other communities and the desert becomes an oasis.
Learn more about the Harding Street Urban Agricultural Center and how you can support their work.