Charlotte young urban farmers grow healthy community

When people think of a farm, they might picture a vast field and an old man in overalls plowing with his tractor.

And long before urban dwellers started seeding potted plants on their patio, people came together to plant hope in the ground.

Now, when life seems to be more stressful and uncertain than ever, a group of young men of The Males Place is bringing people closer together, even when distance has kept us apart.

“We want our young men to know the full body of work that encompasses getting food from the field to someone’s fork,” said Baba Reggie Singleton, founder and director of The Males Place.

If you’re not lucky enough to have a backyard garden, you’ll want to visit the Rosa Parks Famers Market, which brings fresh, affordable vegetables, fruits and other goods to the communities of Beatties Ford Road, the Historic West End and the Greater West Charlotte area.

“Our boys understand that food sovereignty and self-sufficiency is a part of service, and we want them to learn the full food system and not just mere consumption,” he said. “They should be full participants in the food system, growing their food, processing and getting the food ready for consumption.”

The Males Place has evolved over the last several years to become a vibrant multicultural community that has mentored more than 3,000 youth, making their program one of the largest mentoring organizations in North Carolina.

The Males Place also sponsors farmers markets and other food system initiatives to address food insecurity and chronic diseases in many long-suffering communities.

The mentees devote significant time, energy and resources to planning, designing and launching a community garden on Charlotte’s Westside, providing free vegetables to impoverished local neighborhoods that lack ready access to fresh produce.

The Rosa Parks Farmers Market was co-founded by the Rosa Parks Farmers Market Community Advisory Council, established in 2015, and the Mecklenburg County Public Health Department of Charlotte, North Carolina. It was named in honor of beloved activist Rosa Parks.

Along with the fresh, local vegetables that are popping with vibrant color, there are a myriad of vendors and food demonstrators showcasing sweet treats and more.

This market was planted as a tool to put control back in the hands of residents.

“We are a hands-on, frontline organization that provides prescriptive solutions to the needs and interests of our youth, community and people,” Singleton said. “They learn and grow in a positive culture and environment where they are nurtured.”

The overall mission is to provide comprehensive, prevention-based behavior health educational programming, mentoring and life skills training necessary for manhood and the development of African American boys ages 12-18. The organization creates a safe environment for young men to grow in community settings around the United States and abroad.

Singleton said there is an intrinsic link between creating meaningful opportunities for young people and violence as well as other social determinants of health.

“If we engage young people, invest in young people, pour into young people, we’ll start to see some of those fears and some of the startling statistics, particularly along this corridor, start to change,” he said.

This market has been planted as a tool to put control back in the hands of residents, and clearly, The Males Place continues to be part of the solution.

Rosa Parks was a civil rights activist who refused to surrender her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Her defiance sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and launched nationwide efforts to end racial segregation of public facilities, sparking many community movements.

The Rosa Parks Farmers Market is open Tuesday from 3:00-7:00 p.m. at 1600 W. Trade Street at West Complex. They accept cash, credit and debit cards and EBT/SNAP.

If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte public affairs manager, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.