Pastor nourishes plants as well as parishioners

In the tiny farming community of Conetoe, North Carolina, a pastor with a passion for saving both body and soul has been named one of 10 finalists for CNN’s Hero of the Year award.

Rev. Richard Joyner says a large percentage of his parishioners in this predominantly African-American community of just 300 were suffering (and dying) from preventable, diet-related diseases. “Diabetes, high blood pressure—when we first got started, we counted 30 funerals in one year,” Joyner told CNN. “I couldn’t ignore it because I was spending more time in funerals than anything else.”

He knew a community garden with fresh produce (Conetoe’s nearest grocery store was 10 miles away) would help residents build better health, so he started a small garden with the help of local school kids. Today, Conetoe sports more than 20 garden plots, one covering 25 acres, providing 50,000 pounds of fresh produce a year. Student helpers also sell the produce to local restaurants and stores to raise dollars for school supplies and scholarships. And the kids are learning more than gardening—they’re involved in every aspect of the project, from planning the plots to marketing to learning how to cook healthy meals for their families. And parishioners are healthier. “By nourishing plants, you’re nourishing community,” Joyner told CNN. “It’s one and the same.”

Find out more and watch a video about Rev. Joyner and the community garden project:


  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    This makes me tear up immediately! Oh my, what a wonderful gift this pastor has given the lives of his church family. It is absolutely wonderful!! And I love the term Food Desert. It absolutely describes the situation so many people today face in rural areas and inner city ghettos.

  2. Krista says:

    This was touching. I loved seeing the excitement on the children’s faces as they helped with the food. It is so wonderful when a community can come together to make things better for all. This also goes to show how important it is to have fresh produce in your daily diet. One man’s passion to better the health of his community has drastically changed and touched the lives of many.

  3. What a game changer this pastor is ! Very inspiring !

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