Urban Agriculture Program Provides Fresh, Affordable Produce

Since 2015, Fort Wayne’s “HEAL” (Healthy Eating Active Living) markets have served over 9,000 neighbors — ninety percent of which are eligible for WIC/Senior Produce Vouchers or SNAP assistance. Thanks to a partnership with St. Joseph Community Health Foundation and Parkview Health, all vouchers are worth double their value at HEAL Markets.

Gonzalee Martin contributes to the market with his 5-lot vegetable garden. He takes pride in his community, and through educating neighborhood kids on agriculture, teaches them to do the same.

“You’re taking pride in your community. So then the kids that work for it, they see that.”

Video Transcript

Meet Gonzalee: urban agriculturist

Fort Wayne, Indiana

Gonazalee Martin: There is not a local grocery store here. So, you got five gas stations within a mile of where we are. Five gas stations and none of those gas stations sell local fresh produce. They sell other things. So a place like this then comes very handy in the summertime to the community.

This is Gonzalee’s 5-lot vegetable garden.

Those apartments you notice in front of me, that’s the government housing project. Most of these young people, they don’t understand or know very much about agriculture. So that’s why we hire the young people that work for us that live right here in the neighborhood. Three of those students will always come from this government housing project. I help them to understand the careers that are available in the field of agriculture.

The produce is sold nearby in the community. 

Woman, pointing out vegetables being sold: Okra. Yellow squash. Zucchini. Baby eggplant. This is the eggplant. And that’s what it is.

Gonazalee, setting up table: All right. So we all set now? You got all your prices okay?

Student: I know all of them.

Gonazalee: Okay, good enough.

They’re learning people skills for one thing. And that’s critical. Those are the kinds of things that really benefit them for a lifetime.

Ninety percent of customers benefit from government food assistance programs. A partnership with St. Joseph Community Health Foundation & Parkview Health doubles the value of the vouchers.

Customer: Well, thank you so much, hon’.

I got five kids, and it’s so helpful for my family. Really healthy and really fresh. And, say thank you for all the help they’re giving to us. (laughs) Here we go. I got it.

Gonazalee: Well, this used to be a lot of houses, those apartment complexes. That’s a house right there. These used to be houses all up through here. And the city sold these lots for $50 a lot. And as you’re going through here, these rocks would keep crops from coming up. And that’s real time-consuming.

And so as the community drives back and forth down the road here, the street here, they can see this here, how nice it is. And then you’ve got a nice row of trees. Everything looks nice to the community, and that makes a difference. So you’re taking pride in your community. So then the kids that work for it, they see that.

(Dumping corn on table) Okay, Nick, this is it for corn. Okay?

Nick: All right.

Be in the know with Grotto