South Side Family Farms brings urban farming to local food deserts

The Rev. Aaron Hopkins is more than a minister. The spiritual leader of Family Missionary Baptist Church on Columbus' South Side also is a landscaper, a horticulturist, an urban farmer, and an educator.

He's the guiding force behind South Side Family Farms, an effort to encourage healthy eating, improved nutrition, and community building in the neighborhood. 

"It is an underserved community because of our access to fresh fruits and vegetables," he said. "We are in a food desert, and there is that challenge of fresh food access."

Food deserts are found all around Columbus, where supermarkets or grocery stores are scarce, which directly contributes to food insecurity.

To help, Hopkins acquired an empty residential lot at 1269 Wilson Ave. five years ago through the city's land bank program, which sells and leases out vacant lots to be reused and renovated throughout the city. He built raised beds there that transformed into a community garden. When he added a second garden in 2018 at nearby 1204 Wilson Ave., the operation became known as the South Side Family Farms.

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