History

Southside Community Farm (SCF) is a 0.36 acre plot located in Southside Neighborhood, one of Asheville’s historically Black communities. The farm is situated in the former playground of the Livingston Street School which educated Black children in Asheville until it was closed in 1970 by a desegregation order. Today, the building is named the Arthur R. Edington Career & Education Center in honor of the school’s last principal.

6th grade students of the segregated Livingston Street School.
Photo credit: Asheville Citizen Times, “Visiting Our Past: Southside had community before renewal and integration“.

Southside was once part of the East Riverside community– a bustling Black economic center which included 1,100 homes, six beauty parlors, five barber shops, five filling stations, fourteen grocery stores, three laundromats, eight apartment houses, seven churches, three shoe shops, two cabinet shops, two auto body shops, one hotel, five funeral homes, one hospital, and three doctor’s offices. In the 1970’s, Asheville’s urban renewal project, the largest in the southeastern United States, impacted more than 400 acre and destroyed that hub of Black economic power. Read more about the East Riverside urban renewal project here.

Today Southside is a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, where home prices have skyrocketed since 2016 (Asheville Citizen Times, “New Report: Southside home sale value hikes higher than any other Buncombe neighborhood’s“). Just like redlining has historically blocked Black people from being able to purchase homes in our own neighborhoods, gentrification breaks up our communities, prevents us from connecting with the land, and disempowers us economically. The neighborhood also exists in food apartheid and is home to nearly 50% of Asheville’s public housing, including Erskine, Walton Street and Livingston Heights.

Southside has seen the greatest increase in average home sales price of any neighborhood in Buncombe County, though other Black neighborhoods such as Shiloh have also been severely affected by gentrification.
Photo credit: Asheville Citizen Times, “New Report: Southside home sale value hikes higher than any other Buncombe neighborhood’s“.

Founded as “Southside Community Garden” in 2014 by neighborhood residents Roy Harris, Shuvonda Harper, Musa Farfan, and Gwen Hill as a way to bring healthy food to Southside, the farm originally consisted exclusively of row crops but later evolved to also include a hoop house, raised beds, fruit trees, berry bushes, and a pavilion. Today, SCF is in its eighth growing season on Asheville Housing Authority property. In addition to the farm plot at 133 Livingston Street, SCF also cares for Southside Community Orchard, a 0.15 acre apple orchard adjacent to Herb Watts Park at 214 Livingston Street. This year, the farm team is working hard to improve the orchard space and turn it into a diverse food forest including berries, culinary herbs, and medicinal plants.

Southside Community Farm, July 2021

Southside Community Farm is dedicated to building collective power as marginalized people. We believe in creating pathways to free, healthy food access, building small-scale economic power through our BIPOC farmers market, and celebrating the Black culture that still very much exists in Asheville’s Southside neighborhood. With little to no healthy food options locally available, Southside Community Farm strives to provide not only our own produce but a collaborative route to food justice through partnerships, educational programming, and events. While the history of Southside can be viewed through a lens of oppression and loss, we believe in celebrating the resilience of our people through abundance, connection, and the healing power of good food.

Volunteer Cleaster Cotton prunes an apple tree in Southside Community Orchard, February 2021