New Town Urban Farmacy tackles food desert, welcomes kids to learn

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Have you ever seen the crops we eat up close?

Well, there’s a garden in the New Town neighborhood teaching kids how farming works, and how to give that food back so that no one in their community goes hungry.

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Welcome to the New Town Urban Farmacy, where the “farm” part comes first.

“We have radishes, arugula, string beans,” Hurtis Wyche explained.

The farm, run by the nonprofit Wealth Watchers, helps mitigate the food desert in this neighborhood. But it doubles as a classroom for kids of all ages, with Hurtis Wyche serving as an instructor. He grew up here, and also has a degree in education.

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“I’m teaching them about how the plants grow and the different nutritional benefits of it,” he explained.

The farm started in 2013. Wyche took over as manager and outreach coordinator in 2020. Since then, he has set out to get more kids involved, like 18-year-old Levi Catoe.

“I was one of the first people to come out here,” Catoe said. “I helped build the raised beds, the irrigation system right there. We dug up all the dirt here, laid out everything, like a little foundation.”

And we also spoke with 13-year-old Aniyah Muse.

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“My favorite part is when I put the plants and I watch them grow because it’s kinda like a new life has grown into this earth,” she described. “And I like to see it sprout.”

Everything that these volunteers and students harvest actually goes right back to the community during a distribution on the fourth Saturday of every month at the Health Disparities Center.

And while some structures they’ve built have stood the test of time, others need to be replaced, and they need the community’s help to do this.

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The farm needs more funding, but most importantly, volunteers to sow the seeds of future growth. “This is something that could help guide them to their path,” Wyche stressed.

“It just keeps you informed on a lot of things,” Catoe pointed out. “[It keeps you] well-rounded.”

If you would like to donate to Wealth Watchers to fund this project, you can do so here: wealthwatchersfl.com.