Urban Farm Builds Community Food Web Model

Pesto Fest

Photo by Terrah Baker
Don Bennett, founder and owner of Tri Cycle Farms, stands in front of the 1/4 acre garden located off Sycamore across Garland Avenue in Fayetteville.

By Terrah Baker

It was about a year ago that Tri Cycle Farms held its First Annual Pesto Fest. Local pesto aficionados came together with their best recipes and joined the community in music, pesto tasting, donating and a silent auction.

The community, urban farm teaching people how to “grow community through soil” looked ready for this year’s festivities on the day The Free Weekly visited the site across Garland Avenue on Sycamore Street in Fayetteville. The 10-foot tall okra shaded the basil plants below, and more blossoming and full basil bushes could be seen along the many paths and fence that surrounds the 1/4-acre garden.

While much of the basil stands to ward off harmful pests and offer benefits to the soil that has made this garden so lush, it will soon be used in their second annual fundraiser. What’s left is given away or sold to local restaurants as basil has become the farm’s cash crop.

The rest of what’s grown — tomatoes, squash, okra, peppers, spinach, melons, flowers galore and more — goes to supplement the farmers, the neighbors, the individuals who attend free Sunday dinners at Trinity United Methodist across the street and low-income and/or struggling residents of Washington Plaza Apartments.

“On an average, a garden share from Tri Cycle will go to at least 15 households,” said Commodity Foods Program Manager Dawn Jones. “It means a lot to us and our residents.”

Between community organization Seeds That Feed and Tri Cycle Farms, the housing community has received five deliveries of fresh produce to supplement their dry goods and other commodities at their on-site food pantry.

It’s an example of what the farm hopes to accomplish — a community that can provide itself with basic necessities for the betterment of life and the community at large.

“I think the farm raises mentality of this is how we connect and this is how you start working with various communities within a broad community. We’re making connections to the university, connections to the neighborhood, connections to the neighbors,” explained owner and founder of the farm Don Bennett.

Since the start of Tri Cycle a little over two years ago, they’ve had hundreds of volunteers, youth organizations and community leaders visit and help out. Last week, volunteers helped tear down cover crops to push into the soil for what’s called “green compost,” before that they were busy digging out the spot for the sunflower/strawberry circle. In the past they’ve laid down mulch for paths, put up fence, built a makeshift chicken coop and the structure for a hoop house.

Donors have given money, a neighbor gives use of her water, Rain Barrels by Laura donated water barrels for a water catchment system, and through multiple fundraisers they’ve raised several thousand dollars. So far, the farm has managed to expand the garden both in and outside the fence with hundreds of varieties of seeds and plants, construct a habitat for chickens, and build infrastructure for things to come. They’re plans are numerous, and all involve bringing together the local community to model a sustainable food web, where neighbors take care of neighbors and take pride in the health of their community, not just themselves.

They’re currently working with Arkansas Engineers Abroad, a student RSO at the UofA, to build a multi-purpose water catchment system using grant money they hope to obtain. Bennett is working with other groups like Feed Communities (previously Feed Fayetteville) for grant money to pay for infrastructure and even man power. With the street renovations on Garland, the bike path and a bus stop will be located right out front, bringing people to the farm and farm products to the people.

Bennett said while volunteers use their time and energy to be at the farm, he feels they get so much more in return. “People sometimes feel like putting in time at the farm disrupts their life, but you’re not, you’re enhancing your life. I would argue agrarian activity is more beneficial than many other things you can do for yourself.”

Help enhance the farm by attending their Second Annual Pesto Fest to be held at Greenhouse Grille on Oct. 6 from 4 – 8 p.m. There will be three prizes given for the pesto the pestos entered (27 last year) — The Judges Award, Peoples’ Choice Award and Most Creative. There will be live music by Joel Ludford and Anna Horton from Don’t Stop Please and Warren Dietzel of the Warren Dietzel Orchestra. There will be a silent auction and a raffle. To get your tickets, visit tricyclefarms.org, or buy them at the door. $20 at the door and $15 online.

Categories: Family Friendly