Paul Brody sat on a bench in Beaufort City Hall and contemplated his words.
He knows the growing methods he wants to employ in Mossy Oaks' Southside Park will raise eyebrows. This is beyond organic, Brody said. It is morally different, spiritually different, with growing scheduled by lunar cycles and the Earth breathing in and out, he said.
"If you write this, people are going to go, 'This is voodoo,' but biodynamics has been around since 1924," Brody said.
But bringing any farming methods to Beaufort's Southside Park, much less "biodynamics," could be a tough sell. Brody's idea for a nonprofit farm has already met a skeptical audience at a city committee earlier this week. It will be further discussedat a community meeting at Technical College of the Lowcountry on Thursday.
But his plan is not the only one to face a struggle. The 37-acre park has been discussed by city officials for years on how it should be used.
Brody's plan calls for two greenhouses, vine and trellis gardens, a berry patch, nursery, compost area and an orchard for the initial phase, at an expected cost of $150,000 to $175,000. The plan allows for five phases, one each year. The end product would span close to six acres and include more greenhouses, raised beds, 400 chickens, a demonstration kitchen for teaching food preparation and a sample backyard garden.
Now, he will have to persuade city officials and neighborhood leaders that the farm is a good use for part of a park that sits on land given to the city more than 15 years ago, with a covenant that restricts its use to a park and recreation.
Brody promises he won't be deterred, despite an apparent lack of farming experience.
He said his work has included stints owning manufacturing and construction companies, selling real estate, screenwriting and criminal mediation.
When asked about farming, he points to years spent in a family greenhouse as a boy and trips he took to small-scale farms during vacations throughout the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.
He said his model is inspired by Will Allen, a former professional basketball player who in 2008 was awarded a $500,000 MacArthur Foundation grant for his nonprofit "Growing Power," which provided affordable produce for an area devoid of healthy options.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT SOUTHSIDE PARK
The question of what to do with the 30-acre passive park, once the site of a Beaufort Jasper Water & Sewer Authority water treatment facility, is not new.
Five years ago, the city allocated $260,000 to include an arboretum, dog park, and pedestrian and bike trails. The City Council at the time voted to share with Port Royal and Beaufort County the cost of creating a pond on the property. Contributions were expected from BJWSA.
The plan that came from those talks is still outlined on a large sign at the park's entrance on Southside Boulevard.
Of the improvements, development of a dog park and trails is moving forward and the first seedlings of a tree farm will be planted next week as the city works with a limited budget.
Another draft included houses, with the hope that development would help pay for other improvements. The design also included a small community garden, a green space, pavilion, shaded play area and more tennis and basketball courts.
The housing plan was opposed by area residents. A 1999 covenant says the land was "dedicated in perpetuity as a park and recreational facility for the benefit of the city's residents, and not for any other purpose."
Those words are sure to come up again as the plans for Brody's Beaufort Community Farm move forward.
Connie Hipp, a former member of the Southside Park Committee that has since merged with the city's tree committee, strongly opposed the project when it was first presented at a council work session March 10. She was also part of a group of Mossy Oaks residents who quizzed Brody earlier this week during a Parks and Tree Advisory Committee workshop.
Hipp said she had hoped Brody would consider moving to another site, but that he is not open to the idea.
"I still believe that this business does not belong in the park," Hipp said in an email this week. She said it would create an unfair advantage to other local farmers for Brody to use city-owned land.Mayor Billy Keyserling suggested Brody try Southside Park, and the men have visited other possible sites. Keyserling said if the park doesn't work out, the project would probably have to move to private land.
Keyserling said he would like the project to happen in Beaufort regardless, pending more information. He believes the educational and nutritional benefits could be an asset.
"Now whether it can satisfy all of the stakeholders to create a consensus around it I think remains to be seen," Keyserling said. "If it turned out it can't go there, I would work hard to find another place for it."
IF NOT HERE, SOMEWHERE
Brody says moving outside the city limits would defeat the model of an urban farm. He said he initially planned a farm as a for-profit enterprise, maybe on St. Helena Island.
He insists his nonprofit farm would not compete with area farmers and that he would give them grants to help their business when his farm succeeds.
If the plan is not approved, Brody said he will move elsewhere. He said he has received inquiries from areas interested in his project but declined to name them.
His stance might seem pushy. He attributes it to "radical honesty," and a realization he settled on that he is a spiritual being and that his physical body has a shelf life.
He says what he thinks, and in the face of the opposition he has faced to this point, he just thinks he is right.
"People would rather be right than do the right thing," Brody said. "It's hard for people to back away from that position, and I understand that. ... If that happens, the show has to go on the road."
Follow reporter Stephen Fastenau at twitter.com/IPBG_Stephen