KnoxLife pastor Sean Alsobrooks with his daughters, Madison, age 7, and Emerson, age 5

By Sarah Baker

Saturday morning found me at Beardsley Farm with a weeding tool in my hands big enough to make me feel like I actually knew what I was doing.  My friend, Jenny, told me about Beardsley Farm a few months ago after she had taken a class there that she really enjoyed.  In case you don’t already know, Beardsley Farm is a community farm that provides fresh, organic produce to shelters and food pantries.  They also provide tools and support for members of the community to grow their own produce.

In 1996, the city of Knoxville provided funds to convert the former grounds of Beardsley Junior High into a garden and a greenhouse.  Presently, Beardsley Farm has raspberry and blackberry brambles; Muscatine grapes and blueberries; a fruit orchard, and a community garden.  Workshops offered at Beardsley Farm include vermicomposting, beekeeping, mushroom logs, urban hen-keeping, and more.  During my visit, I asked about a class on container gardening and the farm manager, Khann Chov, said, “It’s been a while since we’ve had a class on that, but we’ll have another if you want us to.”  Talk about flexibility and meeting the needs of the community!

On June 16, they hosted a community workday and chicken workshop.  Seeing as how I live in a condo, I felt no need to attend the chicken workshop but I enjoyed my job of weeding the butterfly garden.  Other opportunities for volunteers on Saturday included spreading clover seed, building borders, removing invasives, and weeding flower beds.  People of various ages and ethnic groups were there enjoying the fresh air, sunshine, and the company of other nice people.  As one fellow named Larry said, “You can’t buy a day like this.”  KnoxLife pastor Sean Alsobrooks was one of the nice people working with me.  Alsobrooks also brought along his daughters, Madison, age 7, and Emerson, age 5.  “We love coming here to help, because they grow food for the community.  Our mission (Knoxlife) is to love God and love people by showing up.  Beardsley is a tangible way to serve your city.”  It sure is.

Walking onto the farm as a volunteer for the first time, I was greeted and given a job like I’d been there a dozen times before.  AmeriCorps member Karina Costa put me right to work and then kindly checked with me a few moments later to make sure I was comfortable with my assignment.  There was a spirit of cooperation and gratitude that made everyone working feel at ease and satisfied with the tasks at hand.  The staff at the farm enjoys teaching people about small steps they can take to make a difference.  If you’re looking for a way to contribute or if you want to learn more about organic farming, I highly recommend you look into volunteering or taking a class at Beardsley Farm.  Getting my hands dirty and seeing the results of my effort was almost as rewarding for me as knowing I was helping my community. Who was it who said, “You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt”?  I don’t know, but I think it is true.  For more information about Beardsley Farm, e-mail