Started in 2014, Bennu Gardens is the brainchild and labor of love of master gardener/entrepreneur Bernard Singleton. In 2015, he began to cultivate and grow crops in an abandoned Duke Energy right-of-way in his neighborhood in order to produce healthy food for local residents, provide leadership opportunities for local youth. He built raised bed gardens, offered horticultural education and found markets to sell the goods they produced.
Bernard received critical agricultural training as a Master Gardener with Mecklenburg County’s NC State Extension Master Gardener program in 2016. In 2018, he expanded his cultivation efforts with his study of Moringa, a sustainable cash crop originally from the African continent with unparalleled nutritional value. Bernard became one of only two certified Moringa growers on the East Coast qualified to cultivate this fast-growing crop. In 2018, Bernard received a $4000 grant from the Arts & Science Council of Charlotte ‘Culture Blocks’ program in support of his community work and educational programs. Bernard and a team of devoted volunteers from the local community taught at-risk youth the work of urban agriculture, food handling, canning techniques and salesmanship.
Bennu Gardens also expanded to additional plots of land, educational efforts and sales at Savona Mills, an historic abandoned mill on the West side near his original plot. At this location, Bennu partnered with mill owner Argos Development, Rivendell Farms of the Carolinas and non-profit hydroponic garden builders, 100 Gardens. With additional beds, Bennu increased their cultivation of the Moringa crop, sales and visibility at local farmers markets and at Enderly Coffee, a local coffee shop and gathering place. Bernard also expanded to direct sales to the East Asian restaurant community who were already familiar with Moringa and its’ culinary uses and properties.