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Homegrown hero
Charlotte nonprofit founder a finalist for CNN honor
 
Published Wednesday, October 16, 2013 8:08 pm
by Herbert L. White

Robin Emmons’ mission of food security for underserved communities has gone global.

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PHOTO/CURTIS WILSON
Robin Emmons, founder of Charlotte-based Sow Much Good, is one of 10 finalists for CNN’s Hero award, which will be given Nov. 19 in New York. Emmons is eligible for a $250,000 grant that goes to the winner of an online vote for the 2014 hero of the year.

Emmons, founder of Sow Much Good, a Charlotte organic farming cooperative, has earned $50,000 in grants as one of 10 finalists for CNN’s Heroes award. She will travel to New York for a Nov. 19 tribute gala that will be broadcast on CNN on Dec. 1 at 8 p.m. The Heroes award honors individuals who make extraordinary contributions to humanitarian aid and make a difference in their communities.

“The community has been very much supportive and encouraging,” Emmons said. “We know there is great need in terms of people who are suffering from food insecurity. We know there’s this concept of a food desert, so those things are at play, and there is this issue of nutritional starvation. People talk about it, (so) the community is very much aware of these issues that persist in their neighborhoods.”

SMG, a nonprofit Emmons launched in 2009 with a garden at her Huntersville home, has grown to an organic farm and market on Sunset Road as well as community markets and school gardens across Mecklenburg County. Emmons said the $50,000 grant should arrive early next year and SMG can earn another $250,000 by winning an online ballot at cnnheroes.com through Nov. 17. 

“As with any nonprofit, resources are usually limited and our mission is big,” Emmons said. “We are ambitious in what we’d like to achieve in terms of food justice and equitability for all. That takes money, that takes resources in terms of human capital as well as monetary capital.”

Votes will be tallied via email, and supporters can vote with multiple addresses as only one vote per address per day is counted.

“I encourage you to use a Hotmail account, a Gmail account, a Yahoo! account,” Emmons said. “You can do it one time from each of those addresses.”

The grant money will be used on infrastructure, such as fencing and a tractor to produce more food for underserved neighborhoods. An estimated 72,000 people in Charlotte lack fresh produce and vegetables in so-called “food deserts” due to the lack of full-service markets in their communities. SMG, which has about 200 volunteers, has grown more than 13 tons of organic, or chemical-free, produce.

 “We hope we are building life skills that people can use, so I hope all those things that are going on are certainly pieces to a very complex, but simple, problem,” she said.

 

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