Agriculture Corner in Asheville Brings Communities Together

A mustard seed of faith, hard work, and heart helps cultivate a historic neighborhood in Asheville.

In 2014, Southside Community Garden was established as a food source for residents who did not have access to grocery stores.

“There were no grocery stores in the neighborhood when there were eight or nine scattered around the Southside neighborhood in the 1950s and 60s,” said co-founder Roy Harris, who led the initiative with Shuvonda Harper, Musa Farfan and Gwen. Hill.

Now, reintroduced as Southside Community Farm, it has become a place where neighbors work side by side planting seeds for seasonal crops. It is a place of respite and encounter for those in need of conversation, peace, healing and connection. It’s a communal table where strangers become friends over a shared meal.

“This garden has been everything for this community,” Harris said.

The core principles of the leaders were for the space to produce food, honor history and collaborate. It was also envisioned to be a place for healing, relationship building, and teaching, among many other purposes.

Much of it has come to fruition, but the work is far from done.

Situated on approximately 0.36 acres of urban land, Southside Community Farm proves that much can be achieved with vision, determination and the support of a community.


The Southside Community Farm sits on land owned by the Asheville Housing Authority. It directly serves Southside residents who otherwise may not have access to fresh, healthy food.

Last fall, a rebranding effort dropped the word “garden” from the name and replaced it with “farm” to clarify its focus on food production for the Southside neighborhood, the farm manager said, Chloe Moore.

“The Southside neighborhood exists in food apartheid. There is no grocery store. He has limited access to fresh, healthy food,” Moore said. “Our goal is to participate in the co-creation of a food sovereignty network for the Southside district. Food sovereignty is about the community controlling the food system. And it’s not just about having access to food, but access to the food that people want and that is culturally appropriate.

The term “apartheid” addresses aspects of food insecurity based on race, economics and justice, she said.

“Apartheid kind of suggests how systemic it is,” Moore said. “How intentional it is that there can be communities like Southside that are racially and economically opposed and because of those factors don’t have fresh, healthy food right next to communities in Asheville that have a lot healthy foods and lots of grocery stores and lots of dining options.”

Another goal is to build community and solidarity with other black and brown people in the Asheville area, Moore said.

“It is important that we have places that are still for us black people and that there are places where we can interact with the earth and in a way that is healing and beneficial when there is so much trauma. around the land and shifting from slavery to sharecropping more recently redlining, urban renewal and gentrification,” Moore said.

Southside Community Farm honors what the neighborhood was and reinvents what it can be for present and future generations.

“It’s important because it takes us back to a part of our history, to who we were,” Harris said.

A larger goal is to bring together communities of all backgrounds and demographics. Over the years, the farmhouse and lodge have regularly attracted those who needed a moment of solace, a shoulder to cry on and to serve for a little joy and fellowship, he said.

A few of the leaders threw a fourth Sunday dinner in the style of traditional family reunions. Participants are encouraged to contribute a dish, but it is not mandatory. In April, nearly 15 people of varying backgrounds and demographics sat at the table, he said.

“The reason I started, some people are so preoccupied with everything we do during the week that we don’t even eat together anymore,” Harris said. “We were represented by black, white, young, old, cross-generational… for two hours having a meal together. That probably doesn’t happen much in Asheville.


Moore is leading the next generation of farmers for the community, said Harris, who called her “the future.” Since January 2021, Moore has continued the work started and continued by many before her. Under Moore’s leadership, it transforms into a thriving urban farm with diverse crops. And the Southside Community Orchard, a 0.15 acre lot, is being developed across from the farm.

“We’re expanding what we do and we’re not like a community garden in that we don’t have plots that people can rent out,” Moore said. “We’re focusing more on food production, and that’s for the Southside neighborhood.”

Moore works with assistant farm manager Kate Wheeler, the leadership team of co-founders and dedicated volunteers, she said. It is supported by many residents and community partners, including the Housing Authority, Bountiful Cities and Green Opportunities.

This spring, the farm is growing potatoes, onions, garlic, radishes, sugar snap peas, kale, collard greens, beets and mustard greens and more. In the summer, peppers, tomatoes, corn, squash, watermelon, okra, peanuts, black-eyed peas and other produce will be harvested.

In the raised beds there are medicinal herbs and species used in traditional African and African American medicine. Yarrow chamomile, mint, lemon balm, tea herbs and herbs that can be used for first aid to support the immune system are in the mix.

Blueberries, strawberries, perennials, blackberries, pears, apples and elderberries will be available throughout the year. The farm and orchards are to serve as “an inviting public space” and “a lush food forest for people to enjoy and harvest,” Moore said.

Residents are welcome to tour the farm and harvest ingredients – items are conveniently stored in the lodge fridge as they become available.

Members of the community are welcome to participate at any time, but there are a few dates scheduled for volunteer workdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 15, June 12 and July 10.

On May 1, Southside Community Farm hosted the first of its Farmer’s Market, scheduled for the first Sunday or monthly through October. The market creates a platform for herbal medicine and produces farmers and prepared food vendors.


Currently, Southside Community Farm has a GoFundMe campaign to raise $50,000. Donated funds go to the Farmers Market Series, Youth Entrepreneurship Program, Southside Grocery Program and other projects.

At the Southside Farmers Market, vendors are paid a living wage for being part of the farmers’ market, which is different from the tradition of markets requiring vendors to pay for a stall, Moore said.

“We want to make sure the markets are profitable for them, and we can’t promise a certain number of customers,” she said.

Participants in the Youth Entrepreneurship Program receive hands-on lessons in farming, food, and starting their own business, followed by experience selling at a summer farmer’s market.

The Southside grocery program, including an outdoor food pantry, will launch this summer at the Southside Community Orchard. It will include farm and orchard grown foods, as well as dry goods from local producers.

“We’re expanding our space this year,” Moore said. “We farm more and use hillside areas near the Southside farm plot. We’re also expanding the Southside Community orchard space, giving us more room to grow, physically.

It aims to implement a seed saving program to increase sustainability and resilience. This would allow the farm to save its own seed and therefore buy less from the seed companies. Also, it would increase the ability to share seeds with the community. This season, a “little library of free seeds” has been introduced on the pavilion which invites anyone to pick up a packet of seeds to grow a house and a potted garden.

The goal is to acquire a mobile market that will be used to transport fresh food and other goods off the farm and directly to residents’ homes.

“We have to meet people where they are and not just hope people will come to us,” Moore said.

Lynn A. Saleh