Beardsley Community Farm Education Center Opened

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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News item

Beardsley Community Farm Education Center Opened Thanks to Extensive Design/Build Partnership

Posted: 05/09/2016
Today Mayor Madeline Rogero, City Council and other officials opened the new CAC Beardsley Community Farm urban agriculture community education center, which includes 1,200 square feet of indoor education space and 1,800 square feet of covered outdoor education space.

Beardsley Community Farm Education Center
Photo by Traci K. McDonell / City of Knoxville

The LEED certified building also includes offices for three CAC Urban Agriculture staff and two CAC AmeriCorps members, much needed accessible restrooms, fully accessible parking and a water catchment system for irrigation.

“This new facility will help the Beardsley Community Farm spread its roots in the community, with restrooms allowing for more field trips from school groups, churches, daycares, and more,” said Mayor Rogero. “The project itself was a community effort with many partners and sponsors stepping up to provide a facility that promoted urban agriculture in Knoxville and is environmentally-friendly at the same time.”

Beardsley Community Farm is operated by CAC Urban Agriculture and CAC AmeriCorps, and was one of the earliest urban farms in the region, servicing community members, especially children in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods and schools. The facility is open to the public for visitors to develop their urban agriculture skills at no cost.

The new urban agriculture facility was completed this month, less than a year after City Council approved amendments to the City’s zoning ordinances, which removed potential barriers to food production on private property.

“With more clearly-defined, resident-friendly ordinances for private food production in place, this new education center at Beardsley Farm is opening at a great time for us to encourage sustainable food options throughout Knoxville,” said Mayor Rogero.

The project was a collaboration between the City of Knoxville, CAC Beardsley Community Farm, UT’s College of Architecture and Design, Elizabeth Eason Architecture, LLC, Merit Construction and the Public Building Authority. Additional funding and materials support was provided by the Siddiqi Charitable Foundation, General Shale Brick, Inc., the Thompson Charitable Foundation, former Mayor and Ambassador to Poland Victor Ashe, StonePeak Ceramics, Inc., American Institute of Architects - East Tennessee, Paulk & Co., Keene Building Products, Columbia Forest Products, Inc., Baird & Wilson Sheet Metal, and many other local sponsors.

The new City-owned facility is located in Malcolm-Martin Park between Mechanicsville and Beaumont neighborhoods and is directly adjacent to the CAC Mobile Meals kitchen. City Public Service crews contributed a major construction effort along with student volunteers from UT’s College of Architecture and Design on the concept of a design/build partnership. 

The project is focused on providing students with “real world” experience. The students collaborated for one full semester with Elizabeth Eason Architecture to create the structure’s design. Professors Bob French and Jennifer Akerman and more than 50 UT student volunteers worked over the past two years with project partners to see the facility through, even assisting with construction.

“I have been delighted and proud to see our students become real design leaders in this experience-learning project, identifying an opportunity for new architecture to actively engage the community and recognizing the richness of the farm's context in the Mechanicsville neighborhood. Following a project through design and construction transforms how students approach detailing and problem solving, two important skills in design careers,” said Akerman.

The architecture reinforces Beardsley Community Farm’s mission of engaging the community by creating meaningful public space for the benefit of local residents, volunteers and the farm staff. The new building will serve as a home base for the farm, creating a new front door to their educational program. The design features new exterior amenities include an amphitheater and outdoor classroom. The building itself offers a classroom, office space, storage and accessible restrooms. 

The primary structure is triple-wythe load-bearing brick, detailed to take advantage of historic structural methods while also addressing thermal performance and water mitigation. General Shale donated all brick and mortar for the project and provided support for students to learn the craft of masonry from master mason J.C. Newman.

Staff at the farm worked with the designers and students so that the facility would enhance all aspects of operations. For example, the outdoor wash area was designed with a bench and counter spaces so that gardeners could wash up while also having convenient space to wash produce from the garden. A pass-through window at the wash area will allow cleaned produce and tools to be easily moved to interior storage.

"The Beardsley Education Center will build our capacity to continue to teach important lessons on sustainable gardening and nutrition,” said Khann Chov, Urban Agriculture Director at Beardsley Community Farm. “The classroom and extended outdoor classroom will shield all visitors from extreme weather conditions; we can now host field trips, workshops, and classes despite the weather and the season." 

Beardsley Community Farm is open to the general public to garden and gain agriculture skills for free, though donations to the non-profit are welcomed. All food grown at Beardsley Community farm is donated to groups such as Knox Area Rescue Ministries or is integrated into the CAC Mobile Meals program.

For more information on Beardsley Community Farm, please visit