The community garden which compliments the university's sustainability village, a part of JCSU's 'Growing Healthy Communities' program, is comprised of organic garden plots, two greenhouses, an aquaponic system, seating/picnic areas and other amenities. The sustainability village serves as an impressive learning laboratory that provides students with a unique learning opportunity also provides the local Charlotte, North Carolina community with a healthy and sustainable food supply. The community garden is operated year-round and harvests herbs, tomatoes, peppers, small melons, cucumbers, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, squash, snap peas, beets, okra, carrots, kale, and a variety of berries, beans and flowers.
Students at the university are actively engaged in all stages of the community garden from the planning to planting and maintaining the crops to marketing and selling the produce. Dr. Philip Otienoburu, a Biology Professor at Johnson C. Smith University and lead facilitator of the program, strongly believes in the importance of training his students to operate, manage and run successful businesses as he is passionate about better equipping students with real-life experiences that can be applied to future careers upon graduation. The bright students at JSCU are involved and participate throughout the delivery of program activities which include field trips to operational organic farms, working with other students and the community garden, companion planting, rain harvesting, composting, and the construction and full operation of the greenhouses.
The produce grown in the community garden greenhouses will help assist in mitigating the effects of residents who live in what is known as food deserts in the Northwest/Beatties Ford Road Corridor or Charlotte, NC. These food deserts are defined as areas with limited to no access to fresh fruit and vegetables or other nutritious foods. This is in large part due to the lack of full-service food stores that sell fresh produce, dairy products and meats, as well as processed foods. According to the Community Food Assessment conducted by UNC-Charlotte's Department of Public Health Sciences, the Mecklenburg County Health Department and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Food Policy Council, there are 721 food stores in Mecklenburg County and of that, only 186 are full-service food stores.
Svensson is proud to be a part of the impressive community garden at Johnson C. Smith University and strongly supports the mission of the university's ongoing work around sustainability and the many projects that have provided the students and community with food for thought.