Photography by George Etheredge
Carl Elijah Johnson and a friend build a trellis system for tomatoes. Johnson said that one of the biggest challenges of the garden is getting people from the community to lend a hand. Fresh food is given in return for volunteering.
After walking his kids to the school bus early in the morning, Sir Charles Gardner heads to the nearest corner store to buy a coffee and light up a Newport in preparation for a long day at work. Gardner is a native of Asheville, North Carolina, and a longtime resident of Pisgah View Apartments, the largest public housing development in all of western North Carolina.
In one corner of PVA, rusted fencing from a formerly neglected baseball field now encloses over an acre of green space, tilled into a garden in 2004. Pisgah View Peace Garden was started by a longtime resident of the Pisgah View Housing Projects, Bob White, and handed down to Gardner four years ago. The following year, Gardner hired Carl Elijah Johnson, Jr. The two men now oversee every aspect of the growing and harvesting process.
Gritty concrete streets, overgrown front lawns and crowded stoops tie the PVA community together. Most people in this neighborhood rely on public transportation to get around, and with the nearest grocery store being over a mile away, many people depend on the corner store down the street or rely on others for sustenance. Johnson and Gardner keep the Peace Garden alive in hopes that it will one day result in a more self-sufficient, healthier and happier community.
Kale, green beans, corn, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, basil, peppers and squash are just a few things grown at the garden and donated to the community. Produce is also sold to numerous restaurants and at tailgate markets in the Asheville area.
Johnson is a single father living in PVA who has been a full-time employee of the garden for three years. “The garden means a whole lot, because it’s life itself and it’s feeding us better than we have been eating in a long time,” he says. Johnson never thought he would garden for a living. One of the main reasons he works in the garden is to teach his daughter how to plant, maintain the crops and harvest the food. “Once she gets a little older I’ll teach her how to cook it,” he adds. At the garden, you can often expect his daughter to be helping out, eagerly asking questions about the work that the two men do.
Gardner has a troubled past, which is not unusual in PVA. Previous to taking on the responsibility of a day job, Gardner sold drugs as a way to provide for himself and his family. Now he loves working outside and getting his hands dirty in the red North Carolinian soil. He takes pride in his work and the ability to create a positive influence in the community. “It’s been a big impact out here. If you walk around there are a lot of people that’s started installing their own gardens behind their house,” says Gardner. “I work here because I want to empower my community.”
Read the full article here: http://modernfarmer.com/2015/01/photo-essay-urban-gardens-asheville/