Beaufort News

Businessman says urban farm in Beaufort won't compete with other farms

The man who wants to bring an urban farm to Beaufort's Southside Park says the proposed nonprofit would not create competition with area farms.

Paul Brody, executive director of Beaufort Community Farm Inc., spoke Monday at an informal workshop with interested Mossy Oaks residents and members of the Parks and Tree Advisory Commission. Brody said the project, if approved, wouldn't take away from area growers such as Demspey Farms on St. Helena Island.

Brody's plan, already presented to Beaufort City Council, is for a farm and agricultural education center on more than 5 acres near the intersection of Southside Boulevard and Battery Creek Road.

"Farming is not a competition; farming is a cooperation," said Brody, a criminal mediator and entrepreneur who lives on Callawassie Island. "They don't sell to the same markets."

Produce would be sold at a farm stand on site and to area grocers. Surplus would be given to those who join a work-for-food program or to area agencies to help feed those in need, Brody said.

The proposed farm would lease the land from the city for $1 per year, with farm staff eventually maintaining the park.

Brody's rendering, overlaid on a 2013 master plan for the park, includes 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, with the end product close to 6 acres and including more greenhouses, raised beds, 400 chickens, a demonstration kitchen for teaching food preparation and a sample backyard garden.

Brody's business plan includes selling naming rights to anything on the farm, down to the wheelbarrows.

He took questions from six Mossy Oaks residents who asked him about his farming experience, expected salary and possible odor from the farm.

Jim Arnett, the Parks and Tree Advisory Commission's vice chairman and a landscape supervisor at Secession Golf Club, asked Brody whether the farm would be able to eventually provide a kickback for the park, such as a playground. Brody said the plan calls only for growing food and that anything else would jeopardize its nonprofit status.

The commission produced a list of pros and cons for city landscape architect Eliza Hill, whose minutes will be provided to city council members. A community meeting to discuss the farm with Brody and the board of directors is scheduled for May 21 in the Technical College of the Lowcountry's auditorium.

Among issues discussed was whether the cost to maintain the park was enough to serve as the farm's rent. A sliding rent scale was suggested, so that as the farm grows and is able to take on more maintenance, the rent drops each year.

Three of the four commission members present for the workshop Monday left in favor of the project.

"In my opinion, I would love to see something done with this park other than it be passive," commission chairwoman Barbara Farrior said.

Follow reporter Stephen Fastenau at twitter.com/IPBG_Stephen.

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