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My Turn, Hope Oliphant: Garden made possible by United Way

By Hope Oliphant

Main Street Marketplace Gardens is designed to grow awareness and provide education surrounding the vital importance of good nutrition and healthy lifestyles. In addition, our hydroponic garden will help fuel our community market with fresh and affordable produce for all to enjoy.

Thanks to the generous support of the 2020-2021 United Way grant funding, Marketplace has been able to expand our ability to provide fresh foods and to create a 400-square-foot living garden with year round produce within our warehouse space that is attached to our current marketplace. Individuals in our community will have the ability to see their healthy produce grown before their eyes, taste the harvest, learn how to utilize micro-greens, herbs and a variety of lettuces and actually purchase it all at an affordable price for their families. People can even use EBT to make these purchases if needed.

For many, visiting Marketplace means having the opportunity to access healthy foods that are affordable for their families. So often, people living on a limited budget must sacrifice the ability to purchase quality products for the necessity of quantity. This means purchasing more processed food and fewer whole foods for their families. Through our hydroponic garden, we have the ability to make it possible for all in our community to access fresh produce.

The hydroponic garden will be all organic, sterile, and kept at a controlled temperature of 65 degrees. When harvested, this produce will go directly from the garden into our cooler, which will allow our produce to have a shelf life of four to five weeks. We will have the ability to have a harvest of greens in approximately 31 days from seed to full growth.

The benefits of an indoor hydroponic gardens are truly far-reaching. We are growing to train and employ our local neighbors as Marketplace staff helping those in our community work toward a living wage. We desire to improve the diets of those in our community and, therefore, help end healthy food insecurity.

We hope to educate and inform others on the importance of good nutrition. Finally, we are growing to meet the challenges of tomorrow today, as our natural resources dwindle and climate changes create extra challenges for generations to come. As we continue to grow sustainably with safe and health-conscious agriculture practices, our organizational goal is to adapt and learn how to innovatively increase healthy options for all in our community.

Now more than ever, your support ensures we build a healthy, thriving, and equitable community.

As a community change agent, you and your gift to Rowan County United Way will improve individuals’ and families’ lives by making a positive impact in our community.

Hope Oliphant is executive director of China Grove-based Main Street Marketplace and Meeting Place, which was formerly known as Main Street Mission.

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