City of Montgomery, Tuskegee University partner on urban agriculture innovation center
MONTGOMERY — On Tuesday, Mayor Steven Reed joined officials from Tuskegee University on an abandoned lot in Montgomery to unveil plans for a new urban agriculture innovation center.
The center, which will be managed by Tuskegee University’s College of Agriculture, will attempt to reinvigorate interest in healthy food cultivation among Montgomery residents. It seeks to build on input from local citizens gathered by Tuskegee University’s public dialogue system. The initial plans call for greenhouses, solar-powered ag systems, and public gardens.
The hope is that the site, which was formerly home to the Carlton McLendon Furniture factory, will be a positive addition to the Peacock Tract neighborhood in Montgomery just south of downtown.
A project at the location had long been a focus of Montgomery’s Economic and Community Development Director Desmond Wilson.
“This has been a long time coming, we’ve been working on something in this area for 12 years,” said Wilson, who grew up less than a block away from the new site and remembers watching those marching for civil rights pass in front of his house.
“Everybody had a garden, that was our way of life,” continued Wilson, tying the new agricultural center to the cultural heritage of the neighborhood it seeks to revitalize.
Dr. Walter Hill, the Dean of Tuskegee University’s College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences, spoke at the event.
The professor credited the unveiled center to the “brilliant, smart, articulate young people who don’t mess around and are ready to serve.”
Dr. Raymon Shange of Tuskegee University said the center will aim to spread knowledge about what to do with the products of a harvest; methods like drying and canning. He added the center will also seek to share methods of food preparation for those that may not know how to prepare meals with healthy ingredients.
Kalonji Gilchrest of 21 Dreams Arts & Culture announced that three murals will be added to the area in coming months as part of a larger effort to reinvigorate the neighborhood.
“We’re putting the culture back in agriculture,” said Lindsey Lunsford of Tuskegee University. Lunsford will work closely on the project as part of the public dialogue system that will ensure the agriculture innovation center meets the demonstrated needs of the surrounding community.
In his remarks at the event, Reed thanked Tuskegee University for their partnership on the project. The newly-elected mayor thinks projects like the one unveiled Tuesday can help relieve food deserts in urban areas.
“Projects like these are how we create a better future for the people in Montgomery,” added Reed.
Reed believes that the Peacock Tract area “was decimated by the intentional drawing of the interstate system right through the heart of this neighborhood.”
“We hope to be able to supply homes in this neighborhood, and homes in other underserved communities with fresh food and through gardening and through urban farming,” Reed said in his conclusion.
Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.