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5 Things To Know: Carolina Farm Trust Breaks Ground on Large Urban Farm

… and four more stories from Feb. 28 - March 5, 2021

Carolina Farm Trust
A child plays with his toy tractor at Friday’s Free Spirit Farm groundbreaking. (Photo by Justin Driscoll)

Carolina Farm Trust Breaks Ground on Largest Urban Farm in the Area

Carolina Farm Trust broke ground on a 28-acre urban farm site in Huntersville on Friday. Free Spirit Farm, Carolina Farm Trust’s largest undertaking yet, will be among North Carolina’s largest urban farms. Located near Huntington Greene — an economically-stressed community that is predominantly home to Latinx residents — Carolina Farm Trust leaders say Free Spirit Farm will serve those residents and other neighboring communities that face barriers in accessing fresh, nutritious and affordable food.

“During a time where we feel powerless in so many ways, Free Spirit Farm is an opportunity for all of us, as Mecklenburg county residents, to take action to protect and build our local food economy and supply chains,” Zack Wyatt, president and CEO of Carolina Farm Trust, stated in a release. 

Carolina Farm Trust
Plans for the farm at Community Farm Trust’s event. (Photo by Justin Driscoll)

The operation will be a living and working farm that will cultivate change through community-led food systems with a focus on racial equity and food justice through partnerships with Black farmers in the Charlotte area. Its comprehensive urban farm micro-system will provide opportunities for employment, housing, learning, recreation, leisure, gathering and entrepreneurship.

The site plans for Free Spirit Farm include a high tunnel grow building, orchards for fruit and nut trees, water features to serve as reflection and retention ponds, compost production, and a structure for a farmer’s market, produce preparation, refrigerated storage, and amenities.

Carolina Farm Trust recently launched a campaign to fundraise $500,000 from 500 donors at $1,000 each, to help push an accelerated growth plan and “feed the community and create jobs as swiftly and strategically as possible,” according to the release. 

Free Spirit Farms will add to the existing network of urban farms operated by Carolina Farm Trust and its farming partners: The Urban Farm at Aldersgate in east Charlotte, Mill Grove Farm Co-Op  in Indian Trail, and Janco Community Farms in Statesville. The new space is more than double the size of The Urban Farm at Aldersgate, the second biggest CFT property. 

Carolina Farm Trust
Wisdom Jzar (pictured) and his wife Cherie will help Community Farm Trust manage the farm. (Photo by Justin Driscoll)

UNC Charlotte Professor Sued for Sexual Misconduct

Two UNC Charlotte students — one former and one current — have accused a still-active professor of sexual misconduct in a federal lawsuit filed this week. The university and the UNC System are also named as defendants in the lawsuit, which claims violations of Title IX and the victims’ civil rights as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress. 

One of the women who filed the suit, identified as A.W., alleges that religious historian Robert McEachnie, who is a faculty member in UNC Charlotte’s Department of History, groped her during a trip to Israel in 2017. He then allegedly threatened to block her chances at getting into graduate school if she reported him, which she did in July 2017. 

A UNC Charlotte professor faces allegations of grooming and groping. (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)

A second woman, identified as L.S., claimed McEachnie groomed her for months leading up to the same trip, during which the two began a sexual relationship that continued for months thereafter. L.S. filed her first complaint with the university in 2019, and the resulting investigation turned up the original complaint from A.W., which had originally been ignored.

Language in the lawsuit claims violations of Title IX regarding the right to protection from sexual harassment/conduct at an educational facility that receives federal funding, violation of civil rights under the U.S. Constitution in that L.S. was deprived of personal security and integrity and the University failed to adequately investigate complaints, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

UNC Charlotte policy does not prohibit relationships between students and professors, though it is stated to be “improper.” 

No COVID  Deaths in Long-Term-Care Facilities This Week

According to the latest data from Mecklenburg County Public Health, released Friday afternoon, there had been 97,101 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 883 deaths due to the coronavirus at that time. That’s an increase of 1,406 cases and 22 deaths since the same time last week. According to more in-depth data for cases that had occurred through Wednesday, the average test-positivity rate was at 5.5% for the week, while the average number of people hospitalized on any given day was at 172. 

(Graph courtesy of Mecklenburg County Public Health)

Notably, there were no deaths attributed to COVID-19 in long-term-care facilities (LTCs) over the last week. Nearly 40% of all deaths among Mecklenburg County residents have been residents of LTCs such as nursing homes. Mecklenburg County Public Health Deputy Director Raynard Washington credited the lack of LTC deaths to vaccine success and safer practices among staff, according to WFAE’s Steve Harrison

According to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, as of Thursday at midnight, the state had administered 2,507,336 total vaccination doses to residents, an increase of 186,591 since the same time last week. That’s less than half of the amount administered on the previous week. In Mecklenburg County, there have been 118,821 first doses and 77,187 second doses administered to residents. That’s an increase of 16,184 first doses and 19,619 second doses compared to the same time last week, an increasing trend. 

Video Shows K9 Mistreatment in Salisbury

The small town of Salisbury, a 45 minute drive northeast from Charlotte, made headlines in the New York Times for all the wrong reasons this week after video surfaced showing a police officer with the Salisbury Police Department abusing a police dog during a training session. The video shows the officer pick up the dog by its leash, appearing to choke it, before slamming the dog into the police car, placing it into the backseat and striking it again. 

At a news conference on Tuesday, SPD Chief Jerry Stokes said there would be an internal investigation and the dog, named Zuul, had been separated from the officer in the video. Stokes brought the 4-year-old German shepherd to the conference to show that he hadn’t been hurt, but didn’t say much else. 

On Friday, dozens of protesters showed up outside of the Shuler Law Enforcement Center in Salisbury for a protest organized by PETA at which attendees demanded the officer in the video be prosecuted for cruelty to animals and barred from any future contact with animals.

Protesters with PETA showed up outside the Salisbury Police Department on Friday. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

“Slamming a dog into a car, choking him, and punching him are not only a violation of a dog’s trust but also, PETA believes, a violation of state law,” said PETA President Ingrid Newkirk in a release. “If the Salisbury Police Department defends such indefensible violence to an animal, the department’s K-9 unit should be disbanded.”

SAFE Charlotte Funding Details Begin to Take Shape

At a Charlotte City Council strategy session on Monday, Charlotte City Manager Marcus Jones presented details about how $1 million in funding for local violence prevention organizations will be allocated. The money will be funneled through United Way of Central Carolinas (UWCC), which will award $50,000 to 20 organizations. A panel made up of grassroots anti-violence organizers and advocates will select the organizations based on a rubric created by the city that follows SAFE Charlotte priorities, according to Jones. 

In October 2020, Charlotte City Council adopted the SAFE Charlotte plan, which includes recommendations to re-imagine policing and curbing community violence, as Queen City Nerve reported on in November

Applications for SAFE Charlotte grants will open on Monday, May 8 at 8 a.m. and close on March 31 at 5 p.m. Organizations interested in applying for SAFE Charlotte funding are encouraged to attend one of two upcoming webinars hosted by UWCC, UNC Charlotte and City of Charlotte, with advance registration required. For complete details and application information, visit the UWCC SAFE Charlotte website

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