Crabtree Farms is Chattanooga’s oldest urban farm begun in 1998 by Will and McNair Bailey in partnership with the City of Chattanooga to grow local, sustainable produce for residents to enjoy. This non-profit currently employs a farm staff of 4 people and works with about 400 volunteers, says Melanie Mayo who has been working diligently on Crabtree Farm’s annual, “TasteBuds” local food guide.
Crabtree operates a CSA or Community Supported Agriculture program and they currently have 10 people participating in their “workshare” program which provides participants with shares of CSA produce each week in return for 5 hours per week of labor on the farm.
Here’s a brief definition of a CSA from the Local Harvest Website:
Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.
Crabtree has an on-site farm stand which is open to the public from 1 to 4PM Mondays through Saturdays.
They also sell produce through the Main Street Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays and through the Chattanooga Market once a month on Sundays. In addition to this, Crabtree supplies produce to area restaurants and Greenlife Grocery.
Mayo speaks on Crabtree Farms’ commitment to sustainable growing practices including companion planting, crop rotation and other organic methods including the use and re-use of heirloom seeds. Here’s more from Crabtree’s website about the mission of their Urban farm:
In keeping with the mission of Crabtree Farms, the Urban Farm adheres to sustainable farming methods. The Farm is cultivated with a strong focus on maintaining a balanced ecosystem through biodiversity and soil fertility. The Urban Farm at Crabtree grows specialty cut flower and heirloom vegetable varieties that perform well in the Tennessee Valley. The crops are naturally fertilized and cared for by hand. Many varieties grown at the Farm can not be found locally on a commercial scale. Careful treatment ensures a long-lasting, high quality fresh product.
Through research, demonstration and record keeping, the Urban Farm hopes to become a model of sustainable farming in the Tennessee Valley. All produce and flowers grown at the Urban Farm are sold directly to the public, or sold wholesale to committed partners throughout town.
The DailyGreen website has this to say about heirloom seeds:
Heirloom vegetables keep our food supply diverse, and reduce our dependency on monoculture farming and hybridization. Plant breeders use old varieties to breed resistance to diseases and pests into modern crops.
You’ll get your just rewards by biting into tastier, hardier historic fruits and vegetables.
The “history and cultural heritage” of heirloom seeds can be dated back to Thomas Jefferson:
Thomas Jefferson’s garden at his home in Monticello, in Charlottesville, VA, contains varieties that he himself once grew. He placed very high value on his garden, and searched out fruits and vegetables brought to America from all parts of Europe. Some of the seeds planted at Monticello may be almost 200 years old...
In addition Crabtree has set up Credited Internship Programs with several area colleges. Click here to learn more.
Reporting by Monessa Guilfoil
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