When you look around town, you might not get the feeling that Jacksonville is a healthy city. It can be hard to feel like that with countless fast foods chains, advertisements for cigarettes and clinics dotting every corner. But there are some individuals in the community whose love for a healthy lifestyle are beginning to change Jacksonville.

Carmel Mayo runs the Green Spot, an organic nursery located inside the Jacksonville Farmers Market. Every plant in the Green Spot is organically grown, using a very natural system that allows plants to grow without pesticides and preservatives.

“I have an aquaponics system here and a lot of folks don’t understand what that is. There is a hydroponic and aquaponics. Aquaponic means fish and hydro means you put your own chemicals in the system,” Mayo said.

To simplify that, it means that the fish do all the work. It is their movement and feeding that allows the water to flow from their tank to Mayo’s organic plants.

“You can eat everything I grow here,” Mayo said as she handed me a spicy mustard leaf.

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Green Spot customers have a variety of reasons for visiting her shop, some are looking for fresh ingredients to cook with and some are trying to get away from relying on the food industry.

“We don’t have a demographic. Everybody is purple who walks in here, but basically we are all anarchists. Most of the people that walk in here are wanting to grow their own food for whatever reason: economical or personal,” Mayo said.

Mayo believes everyone should be more educated about the food we eat and where that food comes from.

“I think educating people and getting the information out correctly is one of the main problems. I have had every job in the food industry, cook, meat cutter, etc. I could tell you some very scary stories from my time,” Mayo said.

Carmelo wants her customers to enjoy natural foods and become aware of their advantages. She is also bringing that knowledge to the community of Jacksonville and making a difference to troubled youth. Working at her green house teaches young kids about math, chemistry and most importantly, responsibility.

“I have inner-city kids who come in here and are very interested in this, they live in the middle of a mess, and they have no other place to go. I end up with a lot of them here,” she said.

The growing epidemic of health problems in America can be fought with simple changes. Carmel Mayo is an inspiring fighter for this cause and is making a difference in her community.