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Beardsley Community Farm: Helping Knoxville Bloom All Year Round 

WRITTEN BY Izzy Alexander

Just minutes from UT, where the valley starts to open up like the petals of a flower and reveal stunning mountain views, lies Beardsley Community Farm — an urban garden established to promote food security and provide sustainable access to gardening and farming in Knoxville. 

Sarah Heizenroth, Beardsley’s education coordinator, meets me on brightly-painted benches just inside the farm, dressed for a day of work out in the bitter Knoxville fall, harvesting vegetables and readying the ground for winter. She’s one of eight staff members that helps maintain the local urban gardens. 

“For me, I just love being outside and interacting on the same level as other people,” Heizenroth says, as we soak in the sun. 

She first fell in love with gardening as a case worker for young adults experiencing homelessness, and immediately discovered a passion for community gardens that anyone can access, whether or not they have access to soil and adequate space for gardening in their own backyard.

For many people in Knoxville, Beardsley is their backyard. The farm has 25 plots of community farmland, and they also restore and maintain community gardens scattered throughout the city. Beardsley provides equitable access to fresh, local crops, even for those landlocked in apartments or receiving a variety of social services.

Heizenroth sees field trips to the farm for students, as well as cooking classes for young adults and low-income seniors. “It’s such an empowering thing,” she reflects, “to share knowledge around growing food.” 

But the farm also provides equally-vital access to land, especially for refugees who are capable of growing culturally-appropriate food, but don’t have access to their own gardens. At the farm, community plots are reserved and utilized by refugee gardeners, enabling them to grow food from their homelands right here in Knoxville. 

Beardsley’s rooted into the Knoxville soil in every corner of the city. Heizenroth explains that Beardsley donates local produce to restaurants and small businesses in the area – apple butter to A Dopo, a local sourdough pizza restaurant, and fruits to Phoenix Pharmacy. Their multifaceted programs allow for Knoxvillians to access their locally-grown crops, from free seedlings as a part of the Green Thumb program to vegetables at the Market Square Farmers Market. Their widespread roots enable the community farm to push Knoxville towards blossoming.

And Heizenroth’s passion at Beardsley? Flowers. “This year we grew a lot of flowers – ‘cause of me,” she laughs. Not only are flowers great for pollination, but they also help maintain Beardsley’s aesthetic. And those vibrant blooms, Indian blanket flowers and gardenias and Heizenroth’s favorite, okra, make visitors and gardeners alike thrilled. “I just get the sense that people get really excited about Beardsley,” she smiles. And what’s not to get excited about sustainable urban farming – and a huge flower garden – so close to home?

Beardsley Community Farm is located at 1741 Reynolds Street, Knoxville, TN 37921. You can find them on Instagram at @beardsleyfarm. Many thanks to the wonderful Sarah Heizenroth for her fascinating conversation and flower knowledge.