The Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency, which oversees Nashville’s public housing for low-income families, is developing a community garden near the new John Henry Hale Apartments on Jo Johnston Ave. near downtown Nashville, about a ten-minute drive from my house. MDHA has commandeered an unused plot of public land just north of I-40 and is turning it into a gardening oasis for nearby residents, or for anyone who wants to buy in for $5. This afternoon there was a meeting at the neighborhood’s community center for organizers and potential gardeners, where they showed the plan and explained the rules. I bought in.
They call the project “The Farm in the City,” and in fact, what we urban farmers will see when we look up from digging and planting is the Nashville skyline. It’s an ambitious project. Phase I of the plan calls for 37 individual garden beds, some 4’x4’, some are 4’x7′ and the largest are 4’x17′, and it includes one raised bed built to be accessible to disabled gardeners. There will be a big compost bin and a storage shed. It will be completely fenced in, and there will be a parking area. Water spigots have already been installed. Future plans call for a seating area and a big herb garden.
Right now, there are large piles of wood chips on the grounds where the raised beds will be. Carl Pitchford, the MDHA horticulturist who conducted the meeting, said they’ll be used to make the paths between the beds. The beds will be ready to plant by May 1.
I already have a plan for what to grow in my new 4’x17’garden bed – produce for which there is not quite enough full sun here in my back yard: big bell peppers and hot peppers, summer squash, maybe beets, and tomatoes, of course. I may save a corner of the bed to grow a few flowers.
Carl says they hope to get more people interested in coming into The Farm in the City. The idea of gardening alongside others is very appealing, and it’s a good way to get exercise and fresh food. It’s a good learning experience, too. It would be especially nice to have children involved in growing gardens, he says.
And if you work downtown, consider this: You could leave your office in the afternoon and stop by your garden plot, and take home garden-fresh vegetables for dinner.