ag1_fourPeoplePisgahView_lKevin Costner’s character, Ray Kinsella, in the 1989 movie Field of Dreams improbably plows up his corn field to build a baseball diamond when he hears a voice say “Build it and he will come.” Robert White’s story is just the opposite and equally improbable — but true. When Robert  became possessed with the idea of growing food, he’d never done it before. But he went ahead anyway, starting with taking over an existing baseball diamond in Asheville NC and turning it into an urban farm. When I visited there in April, Robert was a dynamo, steadily digging a trench along the left field fence for a new crop. While there, I met three of his compatriots at the garden, Sylvia, Chastity and Jake. I love Chastity’s t-shirt, which you can’t read in this picture, with its slogan “Partners in Grime.”

ag1_pisgahVeggieBeds_lPisgah View Community Peace Garden now includes a productive vegetable area, a small orchard and a greenhouse, complete with chickens. I didn’t make a complete inventory of crops that they grow, but here are the ones I noted: collards, cabbage, asparagus, garlic, potatoes, figs, apples, kiwis, persimmons, grapes, blueberries, Asian pears and raspberries.  The garden now provides fresh food to garden participants and surpluses are sold at market. Robert has recruited neighbors to help with the garden, using it as an educational opportunity for everyone, himself included. One of the ladies pictured above is now teaching nutrition classes in the neighborhood.

ag1_pisgahGreenhouseInterior_lIn addition to the neighbors, others from the wider Asheville community have been supportive with both their time and money. The garden has grown rapidly in just a few years and has received grant monies to aid in its development. This is a powerful example of what motivated people can do in a very short time, converting underused urban lands into productive farmland.

Robert’s efforts are part of a larger trend in this country to convert urban lands to use in food production. This trend is partly a result of recognizingag1_pisgahOrchard_l the benefits of local food production, and partly due to recognition that our current food production system is not sustainable and that growing our own food will become more of a necessity in the future. I admire Robert for making this a community effort. Community gardens provide one way for people to obtain access to land for growing food when private land may not be available. Community gardens also provide ways to teach others, to improve garden security and to simply have fun working together. Robert has clearly tapped into a need with the Pisgah View garden, underscoring what people are discovering everywhere about underused urban lands: Unbuild it and they will come.