Would you like to see an Urban Agriculture Collective farm at Booker T. Washington Park?
Urban Agriculture Collective (UAC) began as a resident-led community farm behind the Friendship Court apartments. UAC is now one of the programs of Cultivate Charlottesville, along with City Schoolyard Garden (CSG) and Food Justice Network (FJN).
Since 2007, UAC Farm has grown and shared up to 17,000 pounds of fresh organic produce annually. UAC has:
Residents supported the farm in different ways by:
In recent years, UAC began losing access to multiple farm plots, to necessary housing redevelopment. Without long-term access to urban land, thousands of pounds of food will be lost and hundreds of families affected.
Learn more about the History of Booker T. Washington Park by reading our white paper HERE (excerpts below).
Central to Booker T. Washington Park’s history, the African American community played a key role in transforming the land from a history of injustice to a history of reclamation. As Black folks navigated the unjust system of segregation, the ‘Colored Recreation Board’ was established in early 1934, ushering in a wave of renovations and improvements to the park (From Private Privilege to Public Place, 1998).
For decades, Black Charlottesville residents played a key role in transforming the land from a history of injustice to a history of reclamation.
“The Barn,” for example, served a key role for the Black community, including a basketball gymnasium, music venue and meeting place (City as a Park, 98). Significant Park improvements were led by Black community leaders were accomplished “at a time when no more than five percent of these facilities were designated for Black use nation-wide.”
Civic and athletic groups such as the Garden Club, the “Colored Elks” and the “Colored Mothers Club” contributed to the improvements of the park. In 1944, the park hosted a Victory Garden Exhibit showcasing over 200 exhibits of flowers, vegetables, fruits and canned goods created by Black gardeners and farmers.
The Power to Grow is a community engagement, awareness, and policy action campaign in Charlottesville with a goal of securing public space for urban agriculture, primarily led by and for residents of color that have often been marginalized in city land use. The campaign will provide information about historical inequities in Charlottesville (specifically in regards to the Black experience & Black land loss), engage community in designing a vision for an urban garden in Booker T. Washington Park, and ask city council for an area of Booker T. Washington Park to be dedicated for community-based Urban Agriculture Collective site. . This campaign is designed to illuminate the issue of land access and ownership as the foundation for economic and social wellbeing, especially in regards to urban agriculture and the Black community of Charlottesville.
This year Urban Agriculture Collective (UAC), a grassroots effort started by residents of public and subsidized housing, will have lost all three foundational farm sites that provided no cost produce to neighbors of up to 17,000 pounds in one season. While UAC is finding ways and spaces to grow, they may not be permanent sites and are not as accessible to the neighbors experiencing food insecurity. Due to community advocacy in the city - the Charlottesville City Comprehensive plan prioritizes urban agriculture spaces in public areas. Charlottesville Parks & Recreation is gearing up to do a strategic plan and it is timely to have the community recommendation for a farm site at Booker T. Washington Park included in the plan. Now is the time for The Power to Grow!
Booker T. Washington Park has a long history in the Black community and it is one of the many spaces in Charlottesville that is being gentrified where Black neighbors no longer feel welcome. BTW Park holds powerful memories, was once the “Blacks Only” Park, a site of community advocacy, and hosted a horticultural fair with 200 Black grower exhibits. Community members want to restore this space to its legacy. The park is on the bus line and close to the 10th & Page, Westhaven, and Madison, neighborhoods where Urban Agriculture Collective works.
Charlottesville Parks & Recreation has a precedent for partnerships with local nonprofits managing city land. Piedmont Botanical Garden has a 40 year lease with the city to care for 11.5 acres at McIntire Park. (McIntire Park was the “Whites Only” Park during segregation.) Land recently purchased by the city adjacent to Azalea Park has been cared for by the International Rescue Committee New Roots Program and a lease agreement with New Roots is anticipated for that site as well. The YMCA is also a nonprofit operating on public land at McIntire Park.
Cultivate Charlottesville has been partnering with the City to grow gardens and farm sites since 2007 through the Urban Agriculture Collective and City Schoolyard Garden programs. These programs harvest around 10,000 pounds of fresh produce each year to share with community members facing food insecurity, at no cost. Cultivate also hosts youth experiential learning in the gardens and centers community leadership through community engagement cohorts of interns, apprentices, and advocates. The Power to Grow UAC Farm Site at Booker T. Washington Park will build on this sixteen year and trusted partnership.
Specific plans about site location in the park, site size, and site design will be determined in partnership with the Parks & Recreation Strategic Plan and will include significant community feedback. We anticipate being able to grow at least 5,000 pounds of produce on each quarter acre plot. The produce will continue to be shared at no cost community markets hosted in partnership with Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority and Piedmont Housing Alliance. Our previous farm site at Kindlewood reached from 300-500 families each year.
Cultivate brings significant resources and partnerships to test and if needed, remediate the soil; they will work with the city as well as organizations such as Piedmont Master Gardeners and private companies to make the soil healthy. Ensuring the viability of the land before any project implementation is a priority. In this way, The Power to Grow campaign aims to give the land a new life, following previous generations who celebrated and enjoyed the park.
Cultivate and partners at UVA Sustainable Food Coalition, UVA Global Studies, and Trinity Episcipal Church are in the process of doing an observational assessment of how the site is currently being used. Analysis of sports leagues and other potential uses will be conducted to ensure the best use of space across Charlottesville residents. Based on this study and additional research through the Parks & Rec strategic planning process a site will be chosen to ensure use for growing and community engagement for a greater percent of the time.
The City of Charlottesville has several contracts, agreements, and leases with partners that outline the use, care, and maintenance of public space. While each site has different guidelines, partners work with the city to ensure the land is managed with care and for sustainability. Cultivate anticipates being responsible for the majority of fundraising for site implementation.
Cultivate has experienced minimal vandalism in their urban agriculture sites from neighbors although groundhogs and other animals will sometimes have a field day in the smorgasbord of the gardens. Cultivate Charlottesville staff are skilled in how to deter pests and will apply lessons learned from other gardens. In the same way that the city cleared the invasive plants with goats to increase biodiversity, the garden will work to create a diverse ecosystem, using organic growing methods.
Yes, it is true that the UAC Community Markets are specifically for residents facing food insecurity, and the goal of The Power to Grow campaign is to bring back the dynamic community of neighbors that helped to build the park, during and after segregation. This, however, is not uncommon for public parks. Sports playing fields need to be reserved. Not everyone in the community plays or can afford to play golf. The YMCA is member only access. The IRC New Roots site focuses on refugee families. Use of a small section of Booker T. Washington Park for an Urban Agriculture Collective farm site falls in line with those uses, and in many ways brings equity to how space in Charlottesville is accessed. This is especially true with the pressures of development that are out of reach of many Charlottesville residents.
If you’d like to support an Urban Agriculture Site at Booker T. Washington Park you can: Sign the petition to show council your support; Donate to Cultivate and indicate Power to Grow in the subject line; Send an email to City Council expressing your support; or join Cultivate at their presentation to Council on Monday, September 18th during the 4:00pm meeting.
Digging Deep with Food Justice Network Large Group Gatherings
The Charlottesville community came together to ensure that food equity was included in themost recent revision of the Charlottesville Comprehensive Plan approved in November 2021. [Check out Chapter 7 HERE]
The community food equity recommendations included in the Comprehensive Plan came from the Food Equity Initiative Policy Platform – developed with input from over 300 individuals, 125 youth, and 10 city departments.
Together we advocated for strategic values, funding priorities, and concrete goals, policies and practices that City Departments and Charlottesville City Schools can implement to deepen their food equity capacity and work.
In 2023, the Food Justice Network large group gatherings are focused on exploring each plank of the Food Equity Imitative Policy Platform where we will explore and share our work aligns with each platform. Meetings topics are: