Reverend Richard Joyner
Born in 1952, Rev. Richard Joyner grew up in Greenville, NC, surrounded by farms, poverty, and anger.
The son of a sharecropper, Joyner saw little apart from the white landowner who he felt took advantage of his family. His father had a different perspective.
“My father saw sustainability before I did,” said Joyner “When anger blinds you, you can’t see the whole thing.”
In time Joyner grew and evolved from angry son to minister and agricultural educator. He came to understand the importance of the land, of healthy lifestyles, and of relationships. As a result, Joyner helped one community become healthier, while giving hope to countless children.
After serving in the US Army and National Guard, Joyner attended divinity school at Shaw University and went to work as a chaplain at Nash General Hospital. In 2002, Joyner became the pastor of Conetoe Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, a church that serves an isolated community of approximately 300 residents.
In 2004, disturbed by the number of young people in his congregation who died of poor health, he founded the Conetoe Family Life Center, which works with young people in the community to plant, harvest, and sell healthy produce, a commodity previously scarce in rural Conetoe.
In recent years, the center has branched out to honey production. Participating students manage dozens of honeybee hives, paralleling Joyner’s belief that people are “interdependent beings” who cannot reach their full potential without all members of a community reaching their potential, as well.
“Every bee has a role,” Joyner says. “And, in caring for the hives, the children see that they, too, have a role.”
It is a lesson that revolves around imparting a sense of community and helping young people understand how they can find both joy and sustainability in the land, just as Joyner once did.
Written By: Joshua Wilkey