Healthcare MBA student Rob “Veggies” Horton is currently competing in the KIND Cause Competition for his urban farming initiative, Trap Garden, which increases availability and access to healthy foods in food deserts, creates safe spaces for community interaction and educates the public on nutrition, the environment, diversity and civic responsibility. The competition seeks to motivate and inspire others to start something that matters in their communities and not depend on a major grocery store or business to provide them with their daily needs.
Located in North Nashville on the campus of Tennessee State University, The Trap Garden has the power to add value to communities in Nashville that are deemed food deserts, urban areas that Horton said typically lack full-service grocery stores. These food deserts may contribute to rising rates of obesity and chronic diseases among residents. Despite Nashville’s growing population, many communities are underserved, and residents have to travel long distances to purchase foods necessary to maintain a healthy diet.
Horton’s motivation to become an urban farmer stemmed from his personal experiences growing up in St. Louis, Missouri in a neighborhood with very few fresh, healthy food items. He said he saw a similar problem after his move to Nashville. Horton decided to take action and alleviate the problem by growing his own vegetables and herbs through urban farming. As for the name of his project? Horton explained, “The word Trap originally had a negative cultural connotation, but I want to give it a more positive meaning. I wanted something that I could truly be involved in and be myself; be free,” he said. “To me, the Trap Garden means putting in hard work and labor to produce the best possible product (fruit, vegetables and herbs) to put into the community.”
Through Belmont’s Healthcare MBA program, Horton said he has been able to sharpen his skills and add necessary tools to his toolbox. “The courses I have already completed have greatly assisted me in building the foundation of the organization,” he said. “Professors have assisted me in my approach to marketing, staying true to my mission and forecasting for the future. I have been welcomed with open arms to discuss and present my passion project and receive feedback to push the initiative forward.”
The Trap Garden initiative is currently second in the polls in the KIND competition. Winning would mean a $10K prize to move the initiative forward, funding programs and acquiring more space to extend the garden. Horton said he has always been fascinated by the KIND Company. “I read KindSnacks Founder Daniel Lubetzky’s book ‘Do the KIND Thing’ a little over a year ago. I thought that his dedication and passion for KIND and people were amazing,” he said. “After reading the book, I found out about KIND Causes and knew it would be a perfect competition for the Trap Garden to start the year off.”
The garden’s team seeks to partner with local schools, organizations and chefs to create educational programming. Horton remembers talking with a friend about a neighbor needing assistance to buy food for her family. Once at the grocery store, Horton’s friend purchased fresh produce for the family, but the mother did not know how to prepare any meals with the produce. “She expected him to buy frozen pizzas and other premade items-not produce. It is so important to connect, educate and train both parents and youth at an early age to expose them to fresh and healthy items and show them how to prepare healthy meals with the produce,” said Horton. “This is why local chefs and nutritionists are a crucial piece to the puzzle.”
The garden distributes all surplus items to people in the community. Right now, the focus is on seasonal vegetables and herbs, but the team plans to begin growing fruit once it establishes a dedicated space. Trap Garden is open to volunteers, but due to limited space, it is important to coordinate specific times and dates to serve. For those wanting to volunteer, connect with the Trap Garden team through their website.
Help Horton’s urban gardening initiative win this month’s KIND Cause Competition by voting online and committing to do a KIND act.