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Thursday, February 26, 2009

farmland preservation

Whooee! The compost is hitting the fan!

Our wanna-be developers are attempting to curry favor (read "buy off") with North Nashville by donating 250 acres of (undevelopable) floodplain to Tennessee State University's agricultural program--the "forty acres and a mule" proposal, only missing the mules. Terrific! Anything that promotes farming in the Bend is hokay with us. An organic ag program sounds extremely promising, maybe connecting with school kids and school food. However, now that we see the quid, we're wondering about the pro quo.

Also--Senator Henry has introduced some legislature at the state level that would help preserve this area for farming forever. Call Sumter, Tom, Kathleen, Joe, Sherry, Sharon, or Brenda for more info, and be sure to bring your neighbors to the community meeting on March 8 at the Community Center.

Bells Bend Neighborhood Farms

So, who are we?

We are a country neighborhood on the "west coast" of Davidson County, Tennessee, the edge of Nashville. Our area has rocky forested hills to the north and rolling bottomland to the south, Bells Bend, surrounded on three sides by the Cumberland River.

The Bend is only about four miles from Music Row but has remained pastureland because, without a bridge, it is largely inaccessible-- a 16 mile drive, the last 6 miles down a charming tiny two lane country road.

Over the last twenty years our 350 households have fought off a number of destructive proposals: a Kodak plant, a dump, a proposal for 2000 condos (kindly downsized to only 1200), and, most recently, a proposal for a gigantic development, the size of downtown Nashville, to host 40,000 workers a day, 5000 condos, and a small 18-story hotel.

Over the course of dozens of meetings we have come to know and appreciate each other, and are working together to bring back food production to the Nashville area. Three landowners are hosting working organic gardens whose produce will supply a new CSA--30 subscribers who will have a weekly basket of fresh organic food in return for supporting our farmers.

Jeff Poppen, quite well known in organic farm circles as The Barefoot Farmer, is our working consultant, helping us figure out when, what, and where to plant, as well as advising us on our compost collection (we have more than 100 tons sitting in the front pasture, waiting for the spreader), and plowing up the field.

We are now Sulphur Creek Farm, and our other gardens are Ellen's Melons and the Whooping Crane Garden.

Come visit us and see what community action can really be all about!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


"Good neighbors make good fences"--this is our current twist on Robert Frost's classic line.

Last Saturday morning dawned cold and crisp. As I headed to town for my appointed rounds, the neighbors were gathering. I counted 6 pickups, two cars, plus Steve's old Volvo wagon and George's truck. There were two little Bobcats on trailers, and two tractors were turning into the drive.

This was the neighborhood fence raising, erecting an 8-foot deerproof fence around this part of our new communal organic farm, Bells Bend Neighborhood Farm. Tom's worries about costs--have you priced an 11-foot post lately?--had lessened as a pile of posts just accumulated over the last week, thanks to Steve, Joe, Keith, and Allen. His worries about the size of the job began to melt away as the workers rolled in.

By lunchtime, Kay and Sharon had a lavish spread laid out in the kitchen, and at least 60 posts were in place, including a pair of wrong diagonals that had been tidily converted into handsome notched cross-braces.

I counted more than 40 eating lunch, including several of Eric's buddies from Appalachian State. Farmers, doctors, nurses, a home ec prof (well, food arts), a preacher, a trucker, a heavy-equipment operator--the valuable man with the auger!--our cow man, a sculptor/jackofalltrades, a movie location scout, tree surgeon--you get the idea.

Finally a cold driving rain sent everyone back indoors for hot chocolate, and home.

We're all in this together--Sulphur Creek Farm (that's us), one of the Bells Bend Neighborhood Farms, is taking shape.

Good neighbors make good fences!