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US (NC): Winston-Salem spent $2.5m on a controversial anti-hunger hydroponic farm that failed

The future of a city-funded hydroponic farm in Winston-Salem is still unclear after being delayed by five years and exceeding its original budget by 100%. Housed inside a greenhouse, the hydroponic farm is in Kimberley Park, in the historically Black Boston Thurmond neighborhood. It is managed by a local anti-hunger nonprofit known as H.O.P.E. (Help Our People Eat) of Winston-Salem.

The farm has long been under scrutiny since the City Council approved the project in 2016, at the urging of Mayor Pro Tempore and Councilwoman DD Adams. A native of Winston-Salem, Adams represents the Ninth Ward, which includes Boston Thurmond. "I had been reading about hydroponics growing for years," Adams said, in explaining her support for the project. "I thought that if I could do a hydroponics farm as a prototype launch, and it works, then maybe we could do miniature hydroponic farms all over the city, but more predominantly in African American, Brown and poor communities."

Hydroponic farming is a controversial form of agriculture. There are high start-up costs, and artificial nutrients are pumped into the water that feeds the plants. As a result, many farmers still opt to grow crops in soil. From the outset, the farm has encountered difficulties. It was scheduled to open in 2018, but did not officially start until 2022. The mission has also changed: from selling microgreens to upscale restaurants to feeding people who are food-insecure.

The city originally partnered with the nonprofit Goler Community Development Company to complete the project. The initial construction budget was just under $1 million but escalated to $2.1 million, after costs to operate and build a hydroponic farm were found exceed original city estimates.


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