Sunil Patel has always believed in urban farmers — he just didn’t plan on being one. “I’ve been farming for many years in different locations and I thought urban farming was one of the most important things that should happen in the world,” he says. “I never thought I would be doing it myself; I liked being in the country.”
But when Patel landed in Asheville in 2013, he got a job at a permaculture demonstration site downtown and oversaw some urban farming education. “I thought a lot about what urban farming should look like and put out some feelers on a Facebook page looking for patches I could farm,” he says.
Patel received dozens of responses to that initial call as people signed up to barter the use of their land for a share of the produce. He describes the result, Patchwork Urban Farms, as “one farm with many patches.” Landowners get credit toward any PUF products, while the farm makes income by selling produce through a community-supported agriculture program and Asheville tailgate markets. PUF also works with Ujamaa Freedom Market to serve urban food deserts.
“In designing food systems, the foods that need to be freshest when we eat them, the quick-turnaround crops, should be placed close to where we live,” he says. “I didn’t really think the farm would be as broad and idealistic as it turned out to be, but I’m pretty idealistic, so it has naturally turned into that.”
Editor’s note: As part of our monthlong celebration of this region’s commitment to sustainable ways of living and working in community, Xpress is highlighting some of those who are making a difference by taking action on a variety of creative and inspiring initiatives.