Tricycle Gardens began as just one single productive spot–an organic project of friends and neighbors who came together in 2002 to take over one of the many abandoned spaces that dotted Church Hill’s landscape in those days. That Jefferson lot continues to provide healthy, seasonal produce to the families and individuals who tend them, but the organization itself has grown far beyond the seedling stage to become a tree with many branches that cover a good part of the city.
“There are so many unloved places affected by urban blight, and part of our mission is to give those places new life while honoring their history,” says Claire Sadeghzadeh, Program Coordinator. In addition to the four other community gardens around town (in Carver, Humphrey Calder, Byrd Park, and another in Church Hill near Chimborazo Park), Tricycle now has its own farm at 9th and Bainbridge on Richmond’s South Side.
The big idea: scalable urban agriculture.
That doesn’t mean just workshops, volunteer opportunities, and the repurposing of those formerly unloved areas. It also means potentially lifestyle-changing programs like the Healthy Corner Store Initiative, which partners with local shop owners within urban food deserts. Each shop (there are four currently) receives a weekly delivery of produce from the farm as well as supplies, literature, and even cooking classes to help the shop’s regular customers learn more about incorporating fresh foods into their diet. “Food access is half the battle,” says Sadeghzadeh. “We also have to combine that with skill development.”
The Clay Street Market on 30th Street was one of the first adopters, and Tricycle has been really encouraged by the response from the community. It’s not enough to just provide the space and training for urban families to get their hands in the soil and grow vegetables—at this point, each of the community gardens is its own functioning individual entity with a wait list and a very modest annual fee. The idea that they’ve physically changed the quality of the soil with composting and worm cultivation, that their produce is making their way into homes that need it, and that they’ve given less fortunate Richmonders the skills they need to meet their health goals.
By that same token, the Tricycle Gardens Farm Stand, which accepts SNAP cards and normally operates every Thursday evening at the farm itself, will move to the Jefferson office (2314 Jefferson Street) for the colder months. There, interested parties can not only pick out produce but ask questions on what exactly to do with a turnip, some kale, or a sweet potato (answer: sounds like you have everything you need for a fantastic and nourishing soup for the whole family).
“Everyone here is so into food, and we bring that lens to it,” Sadeghzadeh says. Tricycle Gardens won’t tell you what to eat or insist that you grow it yourself—they’re more interested in giving you what you need to be as healthy as you want to be, in the way you want to do it. And they’re convinced that you’ll find it as fun and enjoyable as their list of more than 1,000 volunteers do.