Communities grow together: A conversation with Sir Charles Gardner

Photo by George Etheredge

Xpress: Would you introduce yourself?

My name is Sir Charles Gardner. I live in Pisgah View Apartments, and I grow food for low- income neighborhoods.

Tell us about Gardens United — how did it start, and what is its mission?

Gardens United is an urban agriculture organization that provides quality, affordable, healthy food, along with economic opportunity. It was started by residents of Pisgah View and Hillcrest apartments after these two [public] housing developments came together to grow fresh, healthy food.

We grow using organic practices and educate the community on truly eating well. We also hold cooking demonstrations to get people used to eating fresh produce that they may not be acquainted with.

Can you tell us more about your work in the garden and how the garden functions as a business?

Our day always starts with weeding, more weeding, watering and a lot of planting. Most of our time goes to the labor of the garden, to produce food. We sell at the West Asheville Tailgate Market every Tuesday, and to two restaurants, Buffalo Nickel and Storm.

Why does this work matter to you? Why should it matter to the Asheville community outside of Pisgah View?

It builds community — it’s another way to explain why people are here together, to help each other. People from low-income families are many times looked past or considered to be at the bottom of the barrel. We deserve good, healthy food and good-paying jobs. The garden is our way of saying that we are fed up and deserve a chance at life.

How do you see Gardens United developing in the future?

I see Gardens United being able to totally transform low-income communities by providing jobs and access to healthy food. I want the garden to change the way people see themselves and, in doing so, discover the true riches of life. I want the garden to help build a strong, sustainable community that can grow together.

George Etheredge is a photographer, a student at UNC Asheville and a volunteer with the Pisgah View Peace Garden.


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