Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Community Garden or Townhouses???

***If you have already seen this blog, please scroll to the bottom for an UPDATE***

Today my heart is heavy and it's really my own fault.  There is a strip of land, 2.6 beautiful acres with grass, trees and a drainage "creek" running through it.  I've been coveting it for a long time.  The other day my Handsome husband asked me if I'd started a campaign or shared my vision with anyone...sadly my answer was no.  This is my story, my prayer, my plea.

I've always been a gardener.  Some of my earliest memories are planting seeds and picking fresh veggies from our family garden.  A few years ago I first heard about the concept of community gardens and during the last year I've had the opportunity to visit Tri Cycle Farms in Fayetteville on several occasions for tours and workshops their motto is SHARE 1/3 (with volunteers) GIVE 1/3 (to food pantries) and SELL 1/3 (to sustain the farm).  It is an incredible oasis in the middle of a busy area they are striving to reduce food insecurity for persons within a 2-3 mile circle of their location.  In my heart, I've been praying for that 2.6 acres that run along Highway 72 (2nd Street) and Elm Tree that some how it would be a community garden.  That's where my failure comes in.  I have the faith-praying diligently every day but I failed to implement the other part of Christianity-WORKS.

Food insecurity is a very real problem.  Were you aware that Arkansas has the 2nd highest rate of food insecurity in the United States; 20% of Arkansans don't know where their next meal will come from.  And Northwest Arkansas leads the state in food insecurity in Benton & Washington counties 1 in 4 are food insecure.  What is food insecurity?  It is the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. Right here in Benton County there are more than 30 locations you can reach out to if you are in need of food.  Our church in Centerton is home to H2O (Help to Others) Food Pantry which serves on average of 175-200 persons EACH WEEK! Half or more are Senior Citizens or Children! When we had a neighborhood food drive a couple of years ago, I was shocked that many of the residents had no idea there was a food pantry in Centerton, let alone the need for one!

 Last year I attended a meeting held at the Benton County Extension Office hosted by Susan Pickle, she was evaluating how her office serves the community currently and reaching out to the community for suggestions of ways they could better serve them. There were people from a variety of walks of life at this meeting-educators, parents, credit counseling, etc. and I learned that there are many families who do not get the free or reduced lunches because they either don't understand the program or they don't want to share their income information to receive the lunches.

District wide in Bentonville (where the average income is $71,461) the number of children receiving FREE lunches is 3,152 and the number receiving REDUCED cost lunches is 930.  The combined total makes up 25% of the number of children enrolled in the Bentonville School District. The "neighborhood" school for the Orchards Subdivision is Ardis Ann Middle School-home to 5th and 6th graders.  They have 687 students as of today and 146 of them receive free lunch, another 56 receive lunch at a reduced cost. (More than 25% of the school population)  According to the USDA
Any child at a participating school may purchase a meal through the National School Lunch Program. Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty level are eligible for free meals. Those with incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level are eligible for reduced‐price meals, for which students can be charged no more than 40 cents. (For the period July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2014, 130 percent of the poverty level is $30,615 for a family of four; 185 percent is $43,568 .)
In our community where affluence seems to be the norm we must realize that it isn't!  Tonight I am attending a meeting at the Burnett Real Estate Team office located at 1011 N. Walton Blvd. at 6:00pm. about a companies desire to build townhouses at my coveted corner.  Wouldn't it be nice if this land could remain natural?  Wouldn't it be nice if the children walking home from school could stop in and pick some fresh produce on their way home and pull a few weeds.  Giving them a sense of community, a sense of pride, a feeling of ownership.

I wish I would have gotten busy working to turn this....

This is the property at Hwy 72 & Elm Tree

Into this...
This is TriCycle Farm in Fayetteville located at Garland & Sycamore.


Yesterday I received this note from a neighbor whose property backs up to the strip mentioned above:

Great blog Dana!! Currently the property is zoned A1 agricultural. The small clump of trees directly behind our home contains an original apple tree from the late 1800's early 1900's. The tree is in distress due to overgrowth surrounding it plus a rumor that the previous property owner tried to destroy it. If the tree could be salvaged it would make a fantastic focal point for your community garden idea.
Last night at the meeting with the developer, Tim-White Rock Investments and Cody Burnett we learned they are seeking to put 24 townhomes on that tiny property with two entrances on to busy Highway 72!  If you are inclined to keep this zoned A1-Agriculture rather than R3-Medium Density Residential, please consider one of the following:
1.  Attending the rezoning meeting on March 21st at 5:00pm held at 305 SW "A" Street, Bentonville
2.  Express your opinion in writing to the Planning Commission.  You may mail or deliver to the City of Bentonville Planning Department, 305 SW "A" Street, Bentonville, AR   72712
3.  Use the form (picture below or I can send to you as a .pdf) to express your opinion by checking the appropriate box.  (This may be delivered or mailed to the above address.)
For more information from the City you may call the Planning Department at (479) 271-3122