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The muscadine grapes were bursting to be picked, a few late summer berries were still hanging on, and the weeds made their last stand under the hands of energetic volunteers at the Saturday work day. Beardsley Community Farm was the site for Tennessee volunteers willing to pick farming over a Vols home football game in Knoxville.
A group of teens with the Knox County Youth Health Board experienced the hands-on practices of weeding and mulching, pruning and picking, on the urban community farm that uses organic practices. That means no toxic, persistent pesticides like in conventional farming. Youth Health Board member Eunice Baek said her parents have taught her to eat mostly organic foods. Still other teens were learning about organic’s importance for the first time.
Young adult Jaidarius Prigmore said he likes to help at the farm on weekends. Having grown up in the Knoxville community, he appreciates how the farm feeds others. Beardsley Farm produces thousands of pounds of fresh, organically grown vegetables and fruits each year for Mobile Meals, a food pantry, a women’s shelter and more.
“I think it’s really important that people are getting access to fresh food, ” emphasized Nutrition and Education Coordinator Hannah McMerriman. She told Flour Sack Mama that growing the food without pesticides is better for the environment.
Beardsley uses its demonstration site and related educational programs to teach why local food is best whenever possible. It also encourages residents to grow their own food. Adult volunteer Tim Whitaker regularly helps on the farm because he believes in the self-sufficiency garden provides. “I think everyone needs to know how to grow their own organic vegetables for their own use,” he said.
Organic practices demonstrated at Beardsley Farm include composting and amending soil, beekeeping, integrated pest management and crop rotation. All this, on a tiny patch of acreage next to a community center, amid one of Knoxville’s poorest communities. Thousands of pounds of tomatoes, okra, sweet peppers, green leafy vegetables and berries are grown and distributed each year.
Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator Ellen Comeau said volunteers are needed not just on special work days, but every day, as a small staff runs all aspects of the farm and its programs. Comeau told us about a farm visit coming up in October for hundreds of local schoolchildren, which will require numerous volunteers on site. To inquire about volunteer opportunities, you can contact the farm at BeardsleyFarm@gmail.com.
Tomorrow on the Flour Sack Mama blog, an easy way for you to become part of the food movement in East Tennessee.