Environment Meets Community: Second Baptist Church

How do you provide fresh produce in a community with few grocery stores, reduce polluted runoff, and build a healthier community? It starts with working together to find solutions. Check out the story of Second Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia, which teamed up with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to create an urban farm while treating stormwater from its large roof and parking lot.

Polluted stormwater runoff is a growing source of pollution to our waterways. Investing in projects that manage stormwater pays dividends for both the environment and the wellbeing of residents.

Credit: Kenny Fletcher / CBF Staff


Pastor Ralph Hodge, Second Baptist Church, Richmond, Virginia: There isn't a grocery store nearby at all, so if someone wants something fresh--tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, greens--then you just come right here, Second Baptist, on a Saturday. But this side of the community is often looked over and uh left out of urban development resources, grocery stores. Like I said, there aren't any real grocery stores on this side of town. Where I can take you to a different side of town and literally there's a grocery store, a nice grocery store, on every every other corner.

Ann Jurczyk, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Virginia Director of Outreach and Advocacy: Where Second Baptist is located, that zip code and that census area has the highest rates of hypertension, diabetes, and obesity of anywhere else in the city. There was a direct correlation between diet and this chronic illnesses.

Pastor Ralph Hodge: And one of the things that this community was in need of was some fresh food, fresh food options.

Ann Jurczyk: We had Pastor Hodge as sort of our liaison, if you will, to the community and he explained what the health issues were and then we sought to find a solution that treated their stormwater but also directly addressed what the community needed. Second Baptist Church had a lot of hard surfaces. Their roof, they had a five acre parking lot, so our job was to find ways to capture that rainfall and let it soak in before it moved into a storm drain.

Pastor Ralph Hodge: And we were able to do a huge stormwater project, and then the kind of the cherry on top of that, we did an urban farm which has been going for six years strong, and that farm was then turned into a community foundation, that community foundation then turned into a farmer's market and so on and so forth.

Patricia Harris, Garden Manager: I got into the garden because of my family history of heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, and when it comes down to it it's what you put in your body. If I want to live a quality life I need to change the way that I eat. So when we had the opportunity to have a mini market inside the church I saw the impact there because people would come back to me and say, "I didn't cook before you started selling vegetables. I would not cook. Now you got me cooking."

Pastor Ralph Hodge: Farming and growing food is something that has become a regular part of our vocabulary in the church. But we always look at the garden as a way to ground yourself. Everything starts from the earth so you come back in here, get your hands in the dirt, that energy you ground yourself back into God's creation and then build back on that foundation.

Ann Jurczyk: The beauty of the Second Baptist project is it is it has just grown exponentially. Those are the best types of projects when you find that intersection between a water quality need and a community need.

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