From: Crystal Shepeard, Care2, More from this Affiliate
Published November 5, 2014 07:33 PM

Urban Farming proving successful in Wheeling, West Virginia

In 2008, Danny Swan was a junior at Jesuit University in Wheeling, West Virginia. The town was a shadow of its former self as a thriving hub for the coal and steel industries. As America turned to more green energy and offshore production, jobs and people abandoned the town. Left behind were abandoned buildings, crime and a depressed community.

Danny Swan spent his time between classes gardening in the backyard of the university residence he lived in and volunteering at an after-school program for inner-city kids. He was in search of a way to expand the concrete urban world of the children he worked with. His solution was found right across the street from the chapel that housed the program, underneath a highway overpass.

The overgrown land was once the site of a thriving neighborhood of closely set houses. Like much of the rest of the town, it was now abandoned, and at the center of one of the highest crime areas of East Wheeling. Swan, however, saw it as a perfect spot for a garden.

With permission granted from the West Virginia Division of Highways, Swan and the kids started getting their hands dirty. They dug up the land, finding remnants of the homes and the inhabitants’ belongings that have long since abandoned the area. Within a few weeks, 20 tomato plants were forced into the resistant ground.

Five years later, that same area is now producing 20, 000 pounds of organic fruits and vegetables.

Farm 18, named for its location on 18th Street, is a success story of urban farming. With more depressed areas without even a simple grocery store, residents in these cities and towns all across the country are stuck in food deserts, which lack fresh fruit and vegetables. These same areas are also the home of the most vulnerable among us who lack resources to move elsewhere. This leads to fewer food choices, which are more expensive and less healthy.

For the residents of Wheeling, West Virginia, they now have better choices at their doorstep.

Cornucopia of autumn produce via Shutterstock.

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