The Green Heart Project officially broke ground on the Urban Farm at the William Enston Home community downtown on June 1. According to Green Heart Project executive director Jesse Blom, volunteers, the group's staff and other building partners will begin the construction of 65 raised garden beds this month.
Since breaking ground, Blom said they’ve been preparing the site for a 60-day construction phase that will culminate in the opening of the farm later this summer. When completed, the urban farm will also be home to a greenhouse, fruit tree orchard, farm stand and outdoor pavilion.
“We have crews over there digging trenches to lay electrical conduit,” said Blom. “That’s the first step in preparing the site." After that, Blom said they would begin installing irrigation lines.
The half-acre farm is located at the intersection of King and Huger streets next to the area originally planned as an elderly community and named after English-born businessman William Enston.
The $2.1 million garden project was set to break ground back on November 15 after hitting the funding hurdle, raising 50 percent of the money needed to sustain the farm for the first five years.
But the Green Heart Project, partnering with the Charleston Housing Authority and civil engineering firm SeamonWhiteside to build the urban farm, hit a four-month snag over their stormwater permit, finally getting the go-ahead in mid-March at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Blom previously set April 6 as the construction start date.
“The coronavirus threw us for a loop because building a farm of this scale is way more difficult without volunteers,” he said.
After putting the project on hold, Blom said they are moving forward with new safety guidelines that fit the post-pandemic world. While 30 volunteers would normally be on site to build the garden beds, the Green Heart Project will now limit their group size to 10.
Despite the setback, Blom is excited about what’s ahead, including the start of the Green Heart Project’s first summer internship program.
“We’ve already hired eight high school interns and two college students as crew leads, and they will run the farm stand program,” said Blom.
The farm stand, which is the epicenter of processing and distribution at the urban farm, was built with the help of students from Clemson School of Architecture's CommunityBUILD program in December. “That marked the first piece of the farm’s infrastructure,” Blom said.
The farm stand program run by the new interns launched on June 18. Students will help distribute fresh produce from the stand to members of the community on a pay-what-you-can-basis.
Programs like this are meant to engage the Enston Home community, as were monthly gatherings during the delay to create awareness about the farm’s mission.
“They keep us extremely well informed,” said Raymond McGuire, who’s lived at Enston Home for three years. “They’ve had luncheons and meal pick-ups for months as they approach construction.” Local businesses in the area like Rodney Scott’s BBQ, Home Team BBQ, Huriyali and Taco Boy donated food for some of these get-togethers.
“I was super excited [about the farm] because we’re adding value to that green space,” McGuire said. “There’s nothing better than fresh.”
The farm is estimated to yield 3,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables.
“It’s very exciting,” Blom said. “It’s a validation that all good things take some time and patience as you work towards them. I think everybody in our organization feels really pleased that despite all the challenges that are out there, we are still able to build this asset for the community.”
To donate to the Urban Farm at Enston Home, visit greenheartsc.org and follow along on Instagram @greenheartchs for more updates on the farm’s progress.