Charlottesville City Councilors responded positively to a proposal from Cultivate Charlottesville on Monday afternoon to turn a portion of Booker T. Washington Park into an urban farm.

“I think this is just so exciting,” said Councilor Leah Puryear. A longtime City Schools teacher, she said that she and fellow Councilor Juandiego Wade, who also worked in education, frequently ate what students grew in the school gardens that Cultivate operates.

“I am very, very excited about your proposal regarding Washington Park,” she said.

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Cultivate Charlottesville asked to turn a quarter acre of land in Booker T. Washington Park, a public park on Preston Avenue, into a 10,000 square foot urban farm.

Other councilors either expressed support or remained neutral. Wade thanked Cultivate Charlottesville for its “important work.” Councilor Brian Pinkston asked only for clarification about Cultivate’s prior work, and Snook had a couple questions but refrained from commenting in order to move Monday’s Council meeting along. They were already 15 minutes over time, and still had to hear a report from the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority, he said.

Watch Cultivate Charlottesville’s presentation and City Councilors’ comments on the Charlottesville city’s video portal.

The conversation about a garden at the park could be part of a larger one about who uses and has access to what land throughout the city, said Councilor Michael Payne.

“I definitely support the garden at Booker T. Washington Park,” he said. “I think it’s clear it’s a positive thing.”

Payne pointed out that the proposal for the garden came just weeks before Charlottesville’s Parks and Recreation department starts work on a strategic plan for all city parks and public spaces, and asked if there was any sort of conflict between the two. City staff said that Cultivate’s request and vision for the garden will be incorporated into that strategic plan.

The thinking there was that if Parks and Recreation is about to go through the whole strategic planning process, this would be a great thing to include in it, Chris Gensic, the department’s parks and trails planner, told Charlottesville Tomorrow Tuesday afternoon. Gensic has been talking with Cultivate Charlottesville about the potential for urban farms in city parks for years.

It will take the department a little over a year to complete the plan, Gensic said. The entire plan, including the request for the garden at Washington Park, should be before the Planning Commission and City Council for public hearings and votes in late 2024 or early 2025.

Work on a garden would not begin until after that plan is approved, Gensic said.

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More about Booker T. Washington Park and community gardens

Charlottesville is losing its community gardens to redevelopment — this group wants to relocate them to city parks

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New Roots supports immigrant refugees through its community garden

Theresa Allan can’t help but overhear the conversations in the New Roots garden near Azalea Park. Oftentimes, she sees younger children tag along with their older relatives to aid in their plot of land. It’s not uncommon for younger people to not be as engaged with the garden as their elders are. Yet, Allan, who works as the farm manager, finds a way to catch the little moments of cultural education between the families in a land thousands of miles away from their homes. “I love that the garden can be a setting for that exchange of knowledge,” she said.…

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