Sharrona Moore is an Indy native who wanted to impact her community–one that is located in a food desert on the eastside of Indianapolis. In 2018, she received an Urban Agriculture Certificate from Purdue Extension – a year long experience that combines classroom learning with field trips to prepare urban agriculture leaders for success.
That same year, Sharrona reached out to a Monarch, Indiana’s largest distributor of beer and wine after noticing they were consistently cutting several acres of the grass they sat on. She inquired for a small plot of their land to use as a garden, and ended up receiving 7.6 acres that is now known as Lawrence Community Gardens.
The goal for the garden is to provide affordable access to produce for local community members. “The idea is that 50 percent of the food that is grown goes to surrounding communities, while the the other 50 percent serves our own community,” Sharrona explains.
She is growing food and distributing directly to the community off of a mobile farm stand, with pricing that is comparable to the grocery store. Vouchers for the
Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) approved farmers are offered as well. Stressing the cruciality of easing access to healthy food, Sharonna notes, “Indy’s far eastside is one of the biggest food deserts in all of the US. There are three grocery stores, but there are no buses that goes to the stores. People are shopping for food at gas stations. People seeking this fried food are those who have the highest rate of diet illnesses.”
Sharrona is working with area gas stations to serve as a regular supplier of the fruits and vegetables she grows. Recognizing the increase in interest of healthy eating in her community, Sharrona knows the struggle for access to it is still evident. People flock to the fruits in the gas stations as soon as they receive a shipment, and the food is typically gone within a day. Healthy food is expensive for gas stations to maintain, so Sharrona’s efforts toward fulfilling their shelves also helps take the food stocking burden off of the workers.
In an effort to make the goal of feeding the communities more attainable, Sharonna co-founded the Indiana Black Farmers Co-op. This is a group of urban farmers who provide vital support to each other when carrying out their mission to meet community needs. With 26 total acres for the co-op, they are able to pull resources together to supply the needs of stores that want to incorporate more healthy food.
Members of the co-op live in separate parts of town, creating an ideal dynamic as they are able to serve a widespread area of communities. They come together with their mobile farm stands and host a market in the areas of town they grow in. “In order for mobile markets to be a farmers market, we had to get involved with others,“ Sharrona entails.
Circling around the topic of farmers to consumers, Sharonna states how black people in general make up only about two percent of food grown in Indiana, with women being in the one percentile. Consumers in these communities don’t have control over what they are eating if they don’t have control of what goes into grocery stores. “They have no choice in what they are buying, and what they are buying is an expensive, poor food quality choice,” she adds. “With more concrete fields than green fields, cost of fresh food goes up. All in Indiana, we are growing commodities. We are not growing food for our people–most of our food is imported from other states.” Sharrona not only sees the need of pulling forces together to create strong communities, but believes in the need to work toward self-sustainable communities. “Once we can change their inputs we can change their outputs. I want people to have a dignified food experience–no restrictions like when you go to the pantry.” She admits that they have already made a significant impact at the pantries.
Sharonna’s efforts have expanded from the farm to also educating the community on the matter. During classes at the markets, she teaches how to dehydrate the veggies and fruit because once people finally have access to this food, it is vital that it doesn’t go to waste. Similar classes and food demonstrations are also held at the senior homes on the Eastside. Much of last year was also spent on starting a youth program to educate them on the subject, but this year some senior leaders will help take initiatives to help balance the load. Sharonna is ecstatic for all of the community support.
When discussing what it’s like to be a black woman leader in the health and wellness world, Sharonna says, “It’s a scarcity. Only black and only woman. But that’s why I know what I’m doing is on the right track. If I’m not there then no one is there to represent me.” Sharrona has been every type of black woman, and she empathizes with others because she has been in those positions before. “I’m representing all of those women. I feel empowered to say how I feel.”
For a long term vision, Sharrona assures, “I want the garden to be there after I’m long gone. To be a place where people can come, have fellowship, and food if you need it. A community.” Volunteer days are posted online, and all are welcome to be part of the movement. For anyone who has sensed someone bigger than themselves, Sharrona has too as she concludes, “You just gotta follow your heart. I was born to stand out.”
Looking to give back to your community? Consider lending your time and/or skills to the Lawrence Community Gardens.
Rachel is a freelance writer who focuses on mindful living, aiming to help people live healthier, more intentional lives.