By Adam Smith
Anyone visiting the Limestone County Farmers Market this week would have been hard-pressed not to notice a shrinking of available parking spaces just off Green Street.
The cause of the broken pavement and orange-and-white barrels isn’t a sewer or road project, however. The removed chunks of asphalt will soon be replaced by a combination of community gardens with an accompanying irrigation system, greenspace and sidewalks.
The endeavor — spearheaded by Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful and the Spirit of Athens — was made possible through a $20,000 grant from Lowe’s. Workers with the city of Athens conducted the asphalt demolition.
Lynne Hart, executive coordinator of KALB, said the group is working on a sign that will let visitors to the market know about the ongoing work. She described the venture as a “learning process” she hopes the community will be involved with.
The community gardens that will be constructed at the market site will contain fresh fruits and vegetables. Anything grown at the site will be donated to Limestone County Churches Involved to be distributed to indigent members of the community.
“We want the farmers to know we’re not in competition with them,” Hart said.
The gardens will be cultivated with little cultivation at all. Hart said the group would rely on an old German gardening practice known as hugelkultur gardening that is an all-natural method for raised beds.
“This goes back to the way Mother Nature allows forests to take care of themselves. There’s no one out there to water the trees and brush,” she said. “Trees and branches that fall go into the soil, rot and attract the right type of organisms and worms to aerate the soil. When it rains, (the organisms) absorb the water. When there’s drought, they feed the water back into the soil.”
Once the construction for the project is complete, there will be on-street parking available for customers and loading space for vendors. The sidewalks will connect the market to the existing sidewalk on Houston Street, the Coleman Hill neighborhood across the Brownsferry Street bridge and to the large public parking lot on the east side of Madison Street.
When asked if she was worried about the prospect of fruits and vegetables being pilfered, Hart said a fence would be constructed if necessary. She added the fence would be one that would accommodate grape vines, however.
“We know other people who have done this have had problems with (fruit and vegetable thefts),” she said. “But we’re hoping when someone tastes what a real tomato is supposed to taste like and they see where the food is going, that will subside.”
Hart encouraged members of the community who want to know more about the community gardens to contact her via email at email@example.com or by calling 256-233-8728.