GROWING HIGH POINT SPARKS NEIGHBORHOOD CHANGE
By Keaton Case
Victoria Hensley is on a mission. She helps leads Growing High Point, a local nonprofit, and works to transform under-resourced local neighborhoods through community engagement, empowerment, and entrepreneurship. How? Through urban gardens.
Since their first garden in 2016, Growing High Point has expanded to seven urban gardens all within a mile radius, and they do not plan on slowing down.
That is easy to see just a few blocks from their headquarters in downtown High Point. Resting in between several foreclosed homes is a greenhouse surrounded by scattered tools. That is the beginning of the greenery that will soon feed the community. In High Point, there is a prominent need for nutritional support due to food insecurity, and as the organization’s urban farm facilitator, Victoria has seen how urban gardens can address this need and create community pride among neighbors.
Victoria has a name for them – Urban Farm Leaders. They are the people behind the gardens. Like Jose Abreu. He’s 28, a supermarket owner, and on this particular day, he’s in his garden planting seeds in the dirt. He wears a red baseball cap and a T-shirt with a radish on it and a caption that reads “Hope Grows.”
“We go beyond organic,” says Jose, clapping dirt off his hands. “We care about making our gardens not only sustainable, but regenerative. We believe in developing a space that goes beyond as it is now.”
As Victoria walks between rows of freshly sprouted vegetables, she talks about the importance of neighbors like Jose. They all fulfill roles beyond the expectations of simply farming, she says. They are farmers, educators, mentors, and speakers with full-time jobs.
Then, right there between the rows, Victoria stops. She picks up a dried squash and shakes it, the seeds rattling inside. She smiles and Jose tells her how this veggie can work as a toy maraca for the children – a perfect example of the above-and-beyond care the farmers have for their community.
A block away from Jose’s garden lies another garden packed with raised beds and a small greenhouse. This garden, Thissell Grow Garden, is led by High Point Native Andre Davis. He’s 46, works as a UPS Union Air Recovery and Fuel Specialist, and he’s seen firsthand what the gardens can do.
The urban gardens, he says, bring neighbors together for a common purpose and offers them both economic benefi ts through food production and social benefits through teamwork.
“People have the opportunity to insert themselves into the garden— to care about it,” he says. “People see what we’re doing, and they respect it and are drawn to do good in response.”
Andre then mentions Juju. He taught Juju how to know exactly when a vegetable is ready to be picked. Then, he watched his 5-year-old student become the teacher.
“I overheard Juju teaching a group of three or four other kids exactly what I taught him!” Andre says.
On many days, Victoria finds herself driving from garden to garden talking to the local farmers who see hope in what they plant and grow. This day is no different. As she drives back to her offi ce, she talks about the future – and what she always sees.
“You should come back in a month,” she says. “It’s crazy how quickly everything bursts into life. It’s beautiful.”
How to help?
Visit growinghighpoint.org to find out how you can volunteer, make a donation or fi nd where to buy the gardens’ produce at local farmers markets. For more information, call 336-848-1516.
Growing High Point is transforming under resourced neighborhoods through community engagement, empowerment, and entrepreneurship. Since the Fall 2016, we have converted seven vacant lots into urban farms and have renovated one unoccupied house into a livable home. By transforming vacant spaces, we are able to revitalize neighborhoods and bring about positive change.
List of Needs:
• Funding to continue growing and expanding our operations in core city neighborhoods.
• Volunteers! We have volunteer opportunities posted on our website’s events calendar throughout the week.
• Land We are continuously looking for land to convert into urban farms. Interested in donating land? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 336-848-1516.
• Support our local urban farmers at the High Point Farmers Market
• Follow us on Facebook and Instagram at GrowingHighPoint for the latest news and updates
Keaton Case is a senior at High Point University who will graduate in May with a degree in English. Keaton runs track at HPU and grew up in Springboro, Ohio, a small city 16 miles south of Dayton.