We move to the city for so many reasons. Downtown Knoxville offers the great opportunity to walk to numerous amenities, for example. Some of us are happy to leave behind obligations of lawn care and working outside, let alone any serious thought of gardening. Others of us miss some of the joy of raising flowers or vegetables. You can’t do that in the city, right?
Actually, you will be able to do just that, starting this summer. Randy and Jenny Boyd have offered use of a vacant lot measuring in at nearly an acre at the end of Depot (though it begins again on the other side of James White Parkway) on the western side of James White Parkway for use as urban gardens and work has already begun on the site. It’s just down the street from the White Lily Lofts and a couple of blocks from the Old City. Old City Gardens are patterned after Fenway Gardens in Boston which date back to a victory garden established in 1942. That garden offers seven acres of plots to citizens from the city who wish to grow their own food.
Managing the project will be Brenna Wright and Daniel Aisenbrey of Abbey Fields. I profiled that project here a year ago this month. In the time since, the farm has prospered and Daniel, who had previous experience at the Knoxville Botanical Gardens, was brought on as a manager. Abbey Fields is now selling to Three Rivers Market, Oli Bea and other restaurants and they hope to have as many as 70 CSAs this year.
The new garden lot will include thirty private, raised gardens (4′ X 25′) available for an annual fee of $100 and a larger space which will be cultivated by the Abbey Fields crew who will, in turn, sell the vegetables to downtown restaurants. The larger garden will use dirt from the site and additional top soil, but will not be raised. Brenna and Daniel also indicated they may teach classes on the site about gardening and related topics.
The entire lot will be enclosed by fencing with access provided to those who have leased gardens. Additionally, a small shed will be included which will contain basic gardening tools for use by everyone, allowing people to walk or bike to the garden without having to bring equipment. A pavilion will provide shade and a spot for community gatherings. Water for watering the plants and for washing vegetables will also be available on site and some of the plots will be handicapped accessible.
Randy Boyd issued the following statement, “The idea was inspired by the Fenways in Boston where local urban residents are able to rent small garden plots to grow flowers or vegetables. Often you see people just sitting int heir folding chair reading and enjoying being in their garden. They provide a nice respite from urban life and the one thing better than farm-to-table is from your own garden to your own table. Knoxville has too many blighted, underused lots downtown and so the idea is to convert them to gardens, We’ll will start with this one site and see how well it is received . . .”
The hope is that the garden is operational by sometime in June, which will leave significant growing time for a number of vegetables. Abbey Fields will also focus on crops that can be grown much later into the growing season, with some they can harvest into the early winter. They also hope, if this effort is successful, to expand into other vacant plots of land in the downtown area. Brenna said this furthers the mission of Abbey Fields which includes, “beautifying, growing good food and providing a gathering spot.”
A ground-breaking ceremony will be held today (Friday) at 10:00 AM at 300 E. Depot. Mayor Rogero, other city officials and the Boyd’s along with Brenna and Daniel will be present to help welcome this newest downtown amenity. Join the festivities, if you’d like, and if you are interested in having a plot or otherwise being a part of this project, contact Brenna via the Abbey Fields website.
Program Note: Due to the fact that I will be attending Big Ears for the next three days and writing about it next week, there will be no “Saturday Sounds,” this week.