HOPE: An urban garden where homeless and neighbors grow together

November 8, 2009 at 8:54 pm 3 comments

David Baron — a UNC-Chapel Hill undergrad studying biology, ecology and social entrepreneurship — understands the importance of fresh whole food for human and environmental health.  But it bothers him that not everyone has access to locally raised fruits and vegetables.

So last year he founded  HOPE Garden, combining community garden plots with a small-scale urban farm and job training program for homeless people. 

The project, part of UNC’s Campus Y Homeless Outreach Poverty Eradication (HOPE) project, will rent about 25 individual, 4×8-foot raised-bed plots to local residents for $100 annually.  At the same time, the garden will provide  transitional employment, skill-building, income and food for homeless people tending common space in nine adjacent 60-foot beds.

“We combined an urban farm with a community garden to bring the community in to help socialize the homeless and give them a support network,” Baron said.  He explained that he and project volunteers would work with homeless individuals they know are ready for employment training.

The 5,000-plus square-foot garden is enclosed by deer fencing. Farmers have access to free public transportation via Chapel Hill Transit.  The homeless gardeners will be able to sell produce at the local farmer’s markets and donate the rest of their harvest to a local homeless shelter and kitchen.

Baron received a $10,000 grant for the garden from philanthropist Kathryn Davis (Projects for Peace).  He’s taking time off from his undergraduate studies to develop the gardens with volunteers including students from UNC and local public schools as well as homeless people. This fall they have been working together to grow collards, kale, lettuce and turnip greens.

Saturday a group of volunteers showed up to plant mulberry trees and blueberry bushes, with guidance from expert garden installers and educators associated with Bountiful Backyards.

Last summer, Baron had an internship with Growing Power, run by urban farming guru and McArthur “Genius” Fellow  Will Allen. Baron trained at Allen’s famous Milwaukee farm, helped run the project’s other farm in downtown Chicago and sold produce at local farmer’s markets there. Before that he apprenticed on a farm in Tanzania.

UNC’s APPLES Service Learning program is giving students academic credit for participating in HOPE Garden.  Other partners are the Town of Chapel Hill, N.C. State University, Active Living by Design program , the  NC Botanical Gardens, and several local nurseries and garden businesses.

Anyone interested in particpating in HOPE Garden can reach Baron at baronsdavid@gmail.com

Entry filed under: Community Gardening, Learning, Sustainable Farming, Sustainable Food, Urban Farming. Tags: , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jason  |  December 16, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    Sounds amazing David!! We are under taking a similar project here in Duncan, BC. We have a 1/2 acre that we will be turning in to community and edible gardens. It’s inspiring for us to see a similar project that is so successful. Keep up the great work!!

  • 2. Carolina offers local, organic grub « sustainable grub  |  January 22, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    […] students on campus and in Chapel Hill, including one designed to provide farm training and jobs for the homeless.  The School of Public Health is studying our local farm economy, the transition from tobacco and […]

  • 3. Urban bounty « sustainable grub  |  September 18, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    […] first met Keith when Bountiful Backyards was helping to install a community garden that would provide job training for homeless persons in Chapel Hill. I found him again this week-end at Two Ton Farm, an amazing urban permaculture […]


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