What was previously a kudzu-choked vacant lot on Fairview Road is showing signs of new life — and of bringing much-needed food access to the Oakley neighborhood. Gladheart Farm, a 7-acre growing operation and spiritual community off School Road in Oakley, acquired the property last year and now has plans to build a fresh-food market over the next few months, followed eventually by a café.
In the meantime, the farm has already launched an open-air produce stand in the space, selling fresh local vegetables, melons, berries, handmade granola and drinks. Project coordinator and Gladheart Farm resident Al Jayne says the stand will only be there until the end of this year, at which point attention will shift to construction of a permanent farm store.
That shop, he says, will carry organically grown fresh produce, baked goods, drinks, jam and other products from Gladheart as well as eggs and other “good-quality food items” from area farms and businesses. “We’re kind of open-minded about what we’re going to carry,” says Jayne. “But it’s not going to be like a convenience story — we’re not going to carry cigarettes and snack food.”
As a part of the global Twelve Tribes religious group, Gladheart will also be able to tap into its network of sister communities to offer a few things not produced in Western North Carolina, such as olive oil grown and pressed by a Twelve Tribes collective in Spain and yerba maté (a naturally caffeinated South American herbal drink) from a fellow community in Brazil. Knowing the sources of these items, Jayne notes, assures the quality of the products. “Olive oil, for example, is a big thing. A lot of times with these olive oil companies, you don’t know what you’re getting. We like the idea of knowing the people we’re getting it from,” he says.
The farm store, which Jayne hopes will open in March or April, if all goes well with city permitting, will also have a small coffee and tea bar serving the farm’s Maté Factor yerba maté as well as other teas, coffee, baked goods and healthy snacks. A second phase of construction, tentatively slated to begin the following year, will add a 50-seat café, possibly connected to the market by an outdoor deck and seating area.
Based on the Twelve Tribes’ Yellow Deli model, the eatery would offer a menu of fresh, house-made sandwiches, salads, soups and desserts. There are 12 other Yellow Deli locations operating as far afield as Australia, Spain and Canada, with the nearest one in Hiddenite in Alexander County.
The addition of Gladheart Farm’s market and café will provide important food resources for the Oakley community. The predominantly low-wealth neighborhood, which currently has no central business district, grocery stores or social hubs such as coffee shops or restaurants, has been designated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as an urban food desert.
Jayne says he is looking forward to helping alleviate the community’s food insecurity and creating a social space for residents. “We’re so happy to be able to launch that little farm stand and so excited about developing this thing and having it be a nice spot for the neighborhood,” he says. “We’re just looking forward to getting it open.”
Gladheart Farm’s produce stand and the site of its future farm store and café are at 578 Fairview Road, across from Asheville Fire Protection and Roots + Wings School of Art and Design. The produce stand is open afternoons every day but Saturday.