Caring for the Community: From Hopeless to Hopeful – Rob Horton Grows a Garden

Man squatting down and posing in garden

“It was all a dream…”

Rob Horton – a member of the HCA Healthcare family by day and Belmont University Healthcare MBA program by night – is also a full-time dream chaser and community do-gooder whose vision to help Nashville residents sustain a better, healthier lifestyle resulted in his “grow your own” urban farming initiative called the Trap Garden.

Horton, who works in HCA Healthcare’s Clinical Services Group, founded the community garden after realizing the need for and limited access to fresh fruit, vegetables and healthy snack options in low-income neighborhoods in Nashville.

It’s what’s considered a “food desert,” Horton says, where there are no major grocery stores within a two to three mile radius of the area.

“Some of the individuals who live in these food insecure communities don’t have a vehicle to drive to the nearest grocery store,” he said. “So the next option is the local corner store that might not have the best food choices for a healthy diet or public transportation, which may require taking several buses to get to a supermarket.”

A product of that environment in a St. Louis, Missouri community, Horton’s frustration blossomed into a “grow your own” mentality and the Trap Garden was born.

“Started from the bottom…”

In February 2015, Horton established the first of what will soon be three trap gardens at his alma mater Tennessee State University.  He started out small and rented a plot of land on campus and, with a help of a master gardener who mentored him, planted his first crop of herbs, tomatoes, zucchini and squash.

“My first attempt at gardening ended up working well,” he said. “My friends started to become interested in it, then we started bringing more people out to show what we were doing and it’s been growing ever since.”

Anxious for a steady wave of spring weather, Horton will break ground on the next two trap gardens at Garden Brunch Café, a local eatery, and The Learning Tree Academy, a child care center.  Both North Nashville establishments will use the vegetables grown in their restaurant and school, respectively.

“We’re excited about both partnerships, especially the day care center,” Horton said. “The more we can get younger people involved and growing, the better. The garden gives us an opportunity to support, connect with and educate all ages within the community on the importance of healthy eating.”

“Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself…”

You may be wondering where Horton came up with the name, “Trap Garden.” As he explains, the essence of “trap” is really all about hard work. While the pop culture undertone of the word – trap music, trap house, trap life – may suggest otherwise, Horton believes he’s removed the negative connotation and created something positive.

“I’ve been able to relate to kids at schools and in the community with the ‘Trap Garden’ name,” Horton, who is in the process of obtaining 501c3 status, said. “They understand what we mean by ‘trap’ – hard work, dedication and distributing the best possible product, fruits and vegetables, in our community.”

Horton is a busy man, you see. Between developing initiatives to improve patient outcomes at HCA Healthcare or working towards his MBA for healthcare professionals, you’ll find him in the trap. And you’re welcomed, too – with one small caveat.

“There are no free tours,” he said, laughing. “You have to put in some work in the garden if you’re going to come and see the space.”

Caring for your community – now that’s trap.

Man walking through garden holding hands up to sky

Rob Horton interned with HCA Healthcare and later joined the company through the hCare University program designed to develop recent college graduates into electronic health record career professionals. He’s now a Clinical Excellence Facility Interface (CeFit) specialist in HCA Healthcare’s Clinical Services Group. For more information, please contact the Trap Garden here.

Woman examining large leaf in garden
Closeup of tomato plant with hand pulling leaves away from tomatoes
Woman standing in garden

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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