ROANOKE, Va. – A peaceful little farm, planted right in the middle of this southeast Roanoke neighborhood.
But why here? Turns out, southeast and northwest Roanoke are food deserts — something Carilion Clinic employee Aaron Boush discovered back in 2015.
“There’s not a grocery store or access to healthy food in the neighborhood,” said Boush.
Carilion’s Roanoke Valley Community Health Assessment found a lack of nutrient-dense foods and transportation were some of the biggest issues facing the community.
So Boush and his coworker, Edie Naughton, started talking with locals to see what they wanted, and the idea for the Morningside Urban Farm was born.
“We want to hear from them. We want to make sure this is something they want in their neighborhood,” said Naughton.
Naughton and Boush got a grant from the Carilion Clinic Foundation, and neighbors donated time and supplies to build it.
Since officially opening in 2019, they’ve held block parties and more than 1,000 people have attended over 65 gardening, nutrition, yoga and other classes. Folks can even walk away with fresh produce for free.
“The whole purpose of the farm is to not only get people eating healthier but to get individuals to connect in the community," said Boush. “Things that are good for your body mind and soul. So the whole person. Looking at the whole person, what it takes to have good health.”
Because of their work, they won the American Red Cross Community Impact Hero award.
“When a community cares about each other, you’re going to find that people do better, as far as their health,” said Naughton.
Now this farm isn’t just a garden, it’s a place to gather for years to come.
“People are so disconnected. Even though we have technology connecting us. There’s something about interacting with people on a human level and being able to come together over food,” said Boush.