Not far from the glistening towers of center city, 14 wooden planter boxes mark the Eighth Street Farm, which is part of the Charlotte Urban Farm Project. (Photos: Dartinia Hull)

There is an odd sight on a grassy nook in Uptown.

Fourteen rectangular wooden planter boxes, about three feet tall and five feet long, sit on Eighth Street, in the quiet block between Caldwell and Brevard streets. The boxes are in various stages of use and build. A few are finished: painted fire-engine red, nailed, filled with soil. They hold tomato and basil plants. A few of the planters remain natural but are filled with soil. Others still are empty, save for air and sparse weeds.

A large pile of dirt sits to one side. Jars of rusted nails litter the lawn.

Few cars drive past on Eighth Street; one police cruiser slows on the way toward Brevard Street but doesn’t stop. Two pedestrians meander past. One tugs a wire grocery cart toward Caldwell and glances suspiciously at anybody who approaches. The other, earbuds tightly tucked in, keeps a brisk pace toward Uptown.

One person, a non-chatty man named Ken, is walking his dog, Max. He’s noticed the planters and reminisces for a moment. Yes, he has thought the tomato plants in one particular bin are too perfectly spaced to be random, the basil in the next too jaunty to be volunteer.

“They have these in Oregon,” Ken says. “Portland. Gardens where anybody can plant anything and take anything. Nice idea.”

But he has never seen anybody else here, neither planting nor taking, and he isn’t interesting in hanging around, himself. He’s only here to walk Max, who also isn’t interested in hanging around.

Signs placed around the area identify this as part of the Charlotte Urban Farm Project, and according to the website, the official, logical name of this one is the Eighth Street Farm. CUFP had a workday in April to build the planter boxes. The CUFP provides space to produce “healthy food, healthy people, and a healthy planet.” It is partners with the 7th Street Public Market, UNC Charlotte’s Action Research Project, and Know Your Farms. Founded in 2011 and based in Charlotte, the farm project has big goals, the main one to bring pesticide-free and locally produced foods to the Qcity.

The farm project, according to the site, would eventually become a sustainable, “empowering” program that would offer education and skills training to teach Charlotteans about healthy food production while providing job opportunities. The Web site also promises recipes and plant identification and is seeking funds for a fence for the site. It doesn’t say when the next planting day will be held.

But if you have a moment to stop by, do so. If nothing else, it is a simple reminder that food doesn’t truly come from stores.

Take the CATS light rail to Seventh Street Station. Walk past Imaginon toward Brevard Street, turn left on Brevard, and walk another block over to Eighth Street. Take a right on Eighth. The garden will be on the right, between Brevard and College streets.
Editor’s Note: “Adventures in the Qcity” is an occasional series that introduces our readers to some of the Charlotte region’s interesting places and people and is sponsored by the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS).

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