NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - David Young is known to many as the Ninth Ward farmer, but he's not your typical farmer. He's an urban farmer who came to New Orleans after a calling from God.
Young came to New Orleans in 2009 to volunteer in the Ninth Ward. In his former life, he was in law enforcement. He spent 22 years as a cop in Indiana, and in his last five years, he served as chief of police. Prior to that, he was in commercial agriculture and attended Michigan State University to pursue a career in farming.
After his first trip to New Orleans in 2009, he felt drawn to the city and its people. A calling from God led him down a new path, from chief of police to Ninth Ward farmer, and now the leader of Capstone.
Capstone is a small nonprofit that has taken previously blighted or vacant lots in the Lower Ninth Ward and developed them into productive gardens and orchards. Located in a "food desert," Capstone grows and provides food at no cost to those who need it.
They assist others in starting their own gardens, or allow others to garden on their lots if they have space available.
The nearest full grocery store is 3.5 miles away, hence the nickname food desert. According to Young, 60 percent of the children in the Lower Ninth Ward are being raised by their grandparents.
His primary customers are a lot of those people who don't have the health to go 3.5 miles to the store. And Young said that according to a recent study, about 33 percent of the households don't even have a vehicle.
He feeds up to 100 people with his produce.
"Our goal is to show them that there are healthier foods," said Young. "Being down here and helping others just felt like that's where I belonged."
He intends to teach his neighbors to garden their own fresh veggies that they can add in their diets.
According to his neighbor, Brenda Mims, who is type two diabetic, she wouldn't eat half as many vegetables if it weren't for David.
"I used to eat grits every morning for breakfast. Now I eat a salad," said Mims. "And I appreciate him for that."
David's group is always looking for donations, and not just cash. They will take in any plants, animals, and bees in need of a home.