When thinking about a city, fresh produce grown in someone’s back yard is not usually something that comes to mind.
One organization is trying to change that. Tricycle Gardens aims to grow healthy food and communities by bringing people together. The organization builds community gardens on undeveloped plots of land in neighborhoods around Richmond. Once the garden is cultivated, people are able to purchase a spot in the garden for $50 a year to grow fruit, vegetables or flowers.
Emily Francis, manager of the Humphrey Calder community garden, said she believes the gardens give people an opportunity to get away from the city and enjoy nature.
“I live in an apartment. I have no patch of grass. So for people like me, who don’t own a house with a yard, it gives me an opportunity to be able to grow things and actually eat what I grow,” Francis said.
Tricycle Gardens, founded in 2002, also has an urban farm operating year round in Carver on Leigh Street, just behind the Siegel Center. Other gardens are spread across the city in Chimborazo Park, Church Hill, Manchester and the Fan.
The farm sells fruits and vegetables on the spot while also distributing to local markets. In turn, many local markets and businesses sponsor the gardens and farm to make them better known in the community.
“I think it brings people closer to the food in its organic state as it’s naturally found. I think it makes people more aware of what they can get that’s close and local and fresh,” Ellwood Thompson’s shopper Tuesday Stodd said.
There have been a few problems facing the community gardens. People who are not used to gardening notice the tasks required to maintain a garden, like weeding and watering, take time and effort. Also, many plants are neglected during the winter months because people don’t want to face the cold.
“I think for plot owners the challenge is just coming out everyday or every other day to take care of the plots,” Francis said.
Some plot owners have reported a few instances where fruit or vegetables were stolen from the gardens.
Despite these setbacks, interest continues to grow in and around Richmond.
Community gardens have a long waiting list of people who want to rent the plots of land. Tricycle Gardens is working hard to add more community gardens to the area to accommodate the high demand for fresh, local food.