TODD — One local church is helping fight food insecurity in their community by producing unique varieties of home-grown veggies in their own backyard.
Blackburn Chapel’s community supported agriculture program — also known as Todd’s Table — assists those in need by providing fresh produce, as well as encouraging families to grow their own food.
“It was kind of a way for people to pay a little money upfront and regardless of means have access to this local, organic, fresh food,” said Demir Turan, Blackburn Chapel’s garden coordinator regarding the CSA program. “We are in fact in a food desert and there’s a lot of folks in this community who struggle with food insecurity if they don’t garden themselves. So really, this CSA is an awesome way for people to learn about this food that’s growing in their community and learn about how we can do in a much safer way than industrial agriculture and get excited about it and want to grow their own food.”
Nestled on a hillside behind the historic chapel is Blackburn’s “Beatitude Gardens,” a small plot of land set aside for small-scale regenerative agriculture. Here volunteers grow scores of quality vegetables such as north Georgia candy roaster squashes, Scarlett runner beans and Cherokee purple tomatoes, as well as staples such as kale, corn and potatoes. The gardens are laid out using a permaculture design which adopts arrangements observed in flourishing natural ecosystems. The growers also make a point to produce their vegetables as naturally as possible, using natural insect deterrents instead of harmful pesticides.
“We’re not organic certified. But, we do everything natural, OMRI certified and organic,” Turan said. “We don’t do any chemicals, everything is 100-percent safe for human consumption.”
Operating on a sliding scale, the cost to participate in the chapel’s community supported agriculture programs varies from household to household. For $550 — or $27 a week — participants, will receive a box of locally grown veggies for 20 weeks. Reduced boxes start between $400 to $200, with boxes being offered free to individuals in need.
“We want to offer this regardless of means,” said Turan. “We’re truly not in it for the money at all.”
At the end of each week an assortment of vegetables for the program’s 18 members packed up for pickup, with deliveries being made to individuals who may not have transportation.
Funds from the program go directly back into the garden’s budget for the next season. The CSA program also runs off grants from organizations such as Come to the Table and No Child Goes Hungry, which helps sponsor apprenticeship programs.
Aside from monetary donations, community members have also offered up their land in order to support the local CSA program. Longtime Todd resident Lyn Soeder offered up a piece of her Mathomhouse farm property as a garden space, as well as local business River Girl Fishing who offered a plot of land for growing.
As of now, the Todd’s Table program is focused primarily in the Todd Community, from Green Valley School to Fleetwood. However, Turan stated that anyone who is interested is welcomed to participate. In the future the CSA hopes to expand their program throughout Ashe County.
“Anyone is really welcome,” Turan said. “Right now we’re at 18 members but we’re slowly growing. As we gain more land access, the nonprofit actually has goals of expanding and getting more coordinators like me in the future.”
To learn more about Blackburn’s Chapel, their community outreach programs and the Todd’s Table CSA Garden Shares Program, visit www.blackburncommunityoutreach.org/.