Urban Farm Harvests More Than Produce

"Neighbors Standing Together" is student artwork. All photos by Carole King.

I was recently introduced to a Midtown treasure that really took my breath away with positive energy.  I discovered the Full of Life Urban Farm community garden located at the corner of Emerson and Broughton Streets in the Nixon Times neighborhood. This little piece of green paradise is nestled next to the Interstate, adjacent to vacant lots and deserted properties.

The project was the result of a collaborative effort between Mrs. Voncile Gregory, a long time resident of the Nixon Times neighborhood, and Andrew Cole-Tyson, a local architect and community volunteer. The original design for the garden included a food production garden as well as murals, a stage area for musical performances and presentations and possible individual plots for teams of residents.

Many local businesses contributed to the initial efforts. Railroad ties from CSX provided raised beds. Walkways were floored with oyster shells from Wintzell’s Oyster House. Builders used recycled concrete from David Jordan and Company. Large 55-gallon barrels from Coca-Cola and the Alabama Clean Water Partnership created the rain water retention shed. The local Common Ground Ministries donated concrete blocks for the wall, where a mural would be painted. Oscar Boykin, who grew up in the neighborhood and owned a construction company, volunteered to lead the construction side of the project. Petals from the Past contributed an assortment of plants. And of course, many hours from community residents and interested volunteers finally made the garden happen!

Two years later, the raised vegetable beds are situated in a very intricately designed pattern with connecting walking paths. The garden is in full bloom and thriving with crops of tomatoes, corn, and cabbage (just to name a few), as well as flowering plants. A long shed covers multiple barrels all arranged to efficiently capture rain run-off, economically providing a water source for the garden.

Assorted artwork is springing up all around the perimeter. In the northwest corner, a fabulous creation titled, “Neighbors Standing Together” features recycled fence slats decoratively painted and adorned with pinwheels and other brightly colored items. Local artist Enid Probst of E&M Mosaics works with local youth on Saturday mornings to install the creative public art backdrop of recycled glass and tiles on a concrete block wall.

A public bulletin board outlines the work to be done by anybody who shows up to help out. Weekly tasks are outlined as:

  1. Compost
  2. Harvest
  3. Weed
  4. Pest Control

Off–season winter plans include:

  1. Built trellises
  2. Finish rain barrels
  3. Uncover rock path and weed

The once-littered vacant lot has been transformed into a bustling, engaging community gathering spot. As you turn west off of Rosa Parks Ave. onto Emerson St., you see well groomed lawns, blooming summer shrubs, colorful renovated homes and neighbors chatting on front porches. It’s pretty clear that the Full of Life Urban Farm is well on its way to fulfilling its mission of fostering a sense of pride among the residents of the Nixon Times neighborhood and promoting healthy lifestyles.

Carole King (not the singer, just the hummer) enjoys midtown living from South Capitol Parkway in Capitol Heights where she has lived for 25+years. Carole has been the historic properties curator for the Landmarks Foundation that manages Old Alabama Town for 28 years and is passionate about neighborhoods, their architectural character, their people, and their preservation!

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  1. Heather says:

    Carole, this is amazing!!!

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