Ryan Koch and Andrew Russell English stand on what seems an unlikely little farm: A nearly two-acre plot of land on North Limestone, between an apartment complex and a liquor store.
The land falls just inside New Circle Road, making it very urban indeed. It’s also just down the way from the newer businesses that dot North Limestone around Loudon and Bryan avenues.
Koch’s nonprofit, Seedleaf, has leased the land with an eye toward making it the biggest garden yet in its citywide portfolio of 15 gardens. It would allow Russell English to raise vegetables for a CSA, give middle-school student in a program at Embrace United Methodist Church a chance to work in the garden and earn a stipend, and allow residents of the apartment complex to have a place to pick fresh vegetable and perhaps do some gardening of their own.
At the moment, the land is separated from North Limestone by a fence, so its only point of access is the apartment parking lot. Seedleaf is considering adding a pedestrian gate for street access.
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“We’ve been dreaming about it for about a year,” Koch said on a sunny Thursday. “This gives us an ability to do a little more, and with a little more focus. … This is a unique spot to do something with and for people who are living here.”
Seedleaf, which is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary in Lexington, will first see what residents who live nearby want to see in the garden, Koch said, with the hope that some of them will start working there and perhaps develop their own specialties. For the children, it means a chance to taste a fresh radish or a home-grown tomato, still warm from the sun.
It’s also a way for people to bond more deeply with neighborhoods they once saw only when speeding by in their cars.
“I’ve felt a lot of affection for parcels I used to just drive by,” Koch said.
Russell English is already thinking about how to prepare the soil for the spring garden. Two acres doesn’t sound like a lot, but when a lot of the earth needs to be turned, he begins to assess his access to push mowers and tillers.
What kind of vegetables are the two men considering?
Tentatively, Koch and Russell English are looking at peppers, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, oregano, mint and squash.
But it’s also an opportunity to bring fresh vegetables and outdoor activities to an area of North Limestone where fresh food opportunities are all but nonexistent, especially since the Kroger on Old Paris Pike closed in 2011. That site is now a Fitzpatrick’s Furniture.
In addition to promoting gardening and other activities, such as tending urban chickens, Seedleaf operates a composting program that gathers food scraps from restaurants, thus eliminating organic material from the Lexington waste stream and funneling it instead to Seedleaf gardens throughout the city.
Wendell Berry said: “To be interested in food but not in food production is clearly absurd.”
Seedleaf is removing that bit of the absurd across Lexington.