Reverend Richard JoynerPastor and Farmer
Farming in a Food Desert
Reverend Richard Joyner is the pastor at Conetoe Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, the founder of the Conetoe Family Life Center, and the Director of Pastoral Care at Nash-UNC Health Care in Edgecombe County, North Carolina. He was raised in Pitt County, NC and spent his childhood on farmland tended by his family of sharecroppers. Tired of the economic injustice and racial discrimination his family faced as sharecroppers, he enlisted in the Army as soon as eligible. Despite his determination to leave, he returned and has been serving the small, rural community of Conetoe since 2001.
Through his pastoral role, Reverend Joyner witnessed firsthand more than 30 funerals in one year for people under the age of 32, due largely to complications from chronic health problems related to obesity. This moment was pivotal in his decision to turn his focus back to farming as a means to improve the health of his community by founding the Conetoe Family Life Center in 2007. The central focus of the center is a 25 acre garden that provides approximately 60 youth the opportunity to develop leadership abilities, social skills and stress management techniques through gardening. The garden also increases access to healthy, locally grown foods to the broader County. Reverend Joyner was named a Top 10 CNN Hero in 2016.
Photo Credit: Rush Jagoe