Who’s The Asshole Who Destroyed Nashville’s Community Garden?

The Greenhouse Of Death

The Tennessee Dept. of Transportation, aka the “Department of Concrete,” is living up to its nickname by punching local hippies kicking the African American community bulldozing Nashville’s best known community garden:

B.J. Doughty, TDOT spokeswoman, said the group, called EarthMatters Tennessee and led by Sizwe Herring, had basically allowed the site to deteriorate, moving from its originally stated “green” goal of sustainable crop production and composting to a hodge-podge of uses.

“I don’t know of a single vegetable growing there,” Doughty said. “There were a couple of abandoned vehicles on the site.”

What the hell? Have you looked at the calendar, lady? Global warming notwithstanding, Nashville’s last frost date is April 5 — three days ago. There ain’t gonna be any vegetables growing there for a while. Are you a total moron, or just pretending to be one?

And I’m calling major bullshit on that “allowed the site to deteriorate” stuff. This is my neighborhood. I drive past here every day; I jog past here, I walk my dogs by here. It has not deteriorated. It’s a working garden. I’m sorry it doesn’t look enough like Cheekwood for you. This isn’t for the perfumed set to ooh and aaah over as they drink their sweet tea. This is for people to grow food. It’s an all-volunteer operation and yes, there are people working out here most Saturdays! In season, this is a vibrant community garden with, yes, vegetables and a rose garden honoring Deford Bailey.

Smelling a tremendous waft of bullshit over this story, I headed down to the site this afternoon and witnessed the carnage for myself. There I met and spoke with Sizwe Herring, heard an EarthMatters board member wonder how she could possibly raise the $10,000 TDOT threatened to charge for its “cleanup,” and listened as an elderly African American lady with her hair in curlers laid into the TDOT crew about how humanity was destroying God’s creation and nobody seemed to care. It just about broke my heart to see this rag-tag group of people who had been called to the site on a workday while TDOT supervisors in their starched white shirts put the riff raff in their place.

Near as I could gather, the EarthMatters folks had been given a month to clean up the site, but then for some reason TDOT bulldozers arrived early. I honestly don’t know what happened on that end. What I did hear is that two — two — residents across the street from the garden complained about noise and called the garden an eyesore.


One of the TDOT supervisors told me the garden was not the problem, the greenhouse was. It was filthy. Oh my. A dirty greenhouse, can you imagine? /sarcasm. You can see the picture of it above.

If you’ve been to the site, you know that the greenhouse sits far back from the street, behind a chain-link fence covered with honeysuckle. I can’t imagine how that could possibly be an eyesore to any residents. You have to be inside the garden to even see it!

Someone else said the problem was the composting operation, which according to BJ Doughty in the article above was part of the original deal the state made with EarthMatters. So if the state decided it no longer wanted composting, they surely didn’t have to bring bulldozers out to stop it.

The other complaint from these two neighbors was noise, which is the most hilarious complaint of all. Apparently the gardeners had drumming and flutes and other live music on work days — something I never saw, but of course I’m not out there every weekend. Regardless, the irony of someone complaining about noise when they live in the shade of the Interstate is pretty rich. Plus, Sevier Park backs up to those houses and the city actually hosts live music concerts there every summer. So, I’m calling bullshit on that complaint too.

The TDOT folks were doing a lot of talking and we heard one thing from one person and another thing from someone else. One guy told me the gardens would not be destroyed, but for some reason the hand-painted pavillions were demolished when I got there. I just don’t know why a pavillion is a problem. I’m totally not getting it.

I don’t know these folks who complained. Maybe they are extraordinarily sensitive — in which case, why move next to I-440? I just smell something else going on here, something along the lines of people not liking the poor blacks and dirty fucking hippies working together to plant a garden. That just really chaps some folks in the wrong place. I’m sorry but this just smacks of racism to me. If I’m wrong, well, bygones.

Anyway, I called Sen. Henry’s office and his assistant offered to send me photos of the garden before TDOT “cleaned it up” — which I said was unnecessary since I live near there and see it every day. She then said that there’s nothing the Senator could do, the state Senate does not tell the departments how to run their business.

She actually said that. Which makes me think the state legislature is basically useless. I mean, it’s good to know if TDOT accidentally bulldozes your house while pushing through a highway that your state Senator can’t do a damn thing about it. But I digress.

And she then passed the buck to TDOT’s Winston Gaffron at (615) 350-4300. So whatever. You know what to do.

ADDING…. The more I think about it, the more this stinks. TDOT folks have been acting so defensive about this whole thing … from BJ Doughty saying she never saw a vegetable growing there to the starched-shirt crew on site this afternoon telling me the greenhouse was an eyesore.

Someone better dig into this.

Without further ado:

Raised Beds. With Stuff Growing In Them
Pavillion Destroyed By TDOT
I Know Let’s Put A Racetrack Here

Here’s a garden tour from two years ago:


Filed under gardening, Nashville, TDOT, Tennessee

30 responses to “Who’s The Asshole Who Destroyed Nashville’s Community Garden?

  1. >As a gardener — hell, as a human being — this breaks my heart. I'm sorry.

  2. >Huh. Thought for a second this was a "Republican war on the middle class" thing, but it turns out that your mayor is a democrat.I don't know. Somebody overstepped here. And you're right – TDOT sounds defensive.

  3. >The land is owned by the state, not the city. And the governor is a Republican.

  4. >Thanks for this. You said it.

  5. >I am a conservative and I am outraged. I think it is petty to assign blame while trying to reinforce negative stereotypes outside of the issue. There are assholes on both sides, yes indeed. Dont use this tragedy to coyly push in your own thoughts about politics. This happened by someone who was a jackass, a close minded freak whos daddy and daddy's daddy could very well have voted democrat his whole life. If so it wouldnt change what has happened. That said the land isnt free, politicians game is played by laws and corruption. Time to get the law on your side so the next garden doesnt meet this fate. Sorry to hear this. This sucks.

  6. >My bullshitometer is rarely wrong. I think the bulldozers arrived on the scene suspiciously quickly, and TDOT has been suspiciously defensive. I sense there's more to this story.

  7. >I always hated complainers. Too bad their letters didn't land on my desk. Terse reply, shred file.Community music celebrations are beautiful. People working the land side by side. Growing crops. Cooking healthy meals. Not everybody can afford to buy two cubic feet of composted forest products for $6. Not everybody has the space.Abandonded vehicles? A couple of hundred bucks and a call to DMV. There were none of the usual problems associated with shutting something down, i.e. drugs, drinking in public, teenage loitering, crime… WTF?

  8. >Look, you liebruls got it all wrong as usual. The good neighbors who complained don't want DFH and Darkomericans to NOT garden. They'd just prefer that they use their talents working for someone like Vanderbilt Landscaping or, better yet, at one of the forprofit prisons that are springing up like wildflowers!

  9. >An infuriating story, and yeah, it stinks to high heaven. I would bet that the sordid truth will involve some combination of the colors black and green, as in the pigmentation of who was largely using the space, and/or the color of the money that some well-connected person or entity hopes to make via that land.For a similar sad story that took place in L.A. about five years ago, read about the South Central Farm. That one seems to have more involved the color of money.

  10. >I thought it was ironic you brought up the Racetrack in your photos.I think now some people see how foolish it is to take jobs and incomes by the thousands….because of complaints by the less than 10 people who want the fairgrounds closed.Ovewr 1.5 million people enjoy the Tn State Fairgrounds annually. Less than 10 have killed it.So your answer is in the above statement. Those complaining have juice with the big shots and the end result benefits only them.

  11. >Ovewr 1.5 million people enjoy the Tn State Fairgrounds annually. Less than 10 have killed it.But that's not true at all. I can hear the races from my house and I'm one of the ones in favor of getting rid of the racetrack. And many more people think the fairgrounds is valuable property that could be put to better economic use. So it's not true at all to say that "less than 10 people killed it." It's just false.I brought up the racetrack because I think it's ludicrous for race fans to use the "ZOMG it's a historic site!" argument for that slab of concrete they claim is hallowed ground. As I've said here on this blog and elsewhere, a) no one in this town gives a shit about history, since we bulldoze hundred year old buildings all the fucking time; and b) the track is not historic, it was built in 1959 or something like that and since when is that historic? The original racetrack — the one built in 1829 or whatever — is marked by a historic marker, that's what we do in this town, we tear shit down and slap a historic market on the site saying "here something used to be." So quit with the historic argument. And it's not true that 1.5 million people visit the fairgrounds. It's the same people going to events over and over again. Heck, we go to fairgrounds events about a half dozen times a year, so that's 12 visits just from us. Tell me how many unique visitors enjoy the fairgrounds and then get back to me.

  12. >I doubt now that you will be annoyed from the noise aspect since mufflers will reduce that to reasonable levels.I've never personally made the historic argument, other than the history that was made there.What you and many others fail to take into consideration is the fact that thousands of peoples lives revolve around that piece of property. Unfortunately you and others cannot relate or understand for whatever reason.My father grew up on Fairfax ave and was best friends at West High school with a driver who raced at the Fairgrounds and was very popular. From the day I was born the Fairgrounds has been a special place for me and my family. I grew up every Sat night attending races and watching my Fathers friend race. He later became successful in business and retired from racing. We still went every Sat night and for the past 41 years racing was the one thing my father and I shared.I later became a driver by taking out a loan on my home buy the $30,000 in equipment to make my dream a reality.I was able to share many Sat nights that I considered at that moment to be the greatest night of my life on that property. I saw the pride and joy in my friends and family's faces. Not to mention my father's.Again, Unless you've won the world series, or were MVP of the Super Bowl I cannot describe what those moments feel like. Yes, that's how winning a race at that track feels like.I did well, I was able to support myself by working a full time job while racing and making sponsorship appearances. I derived more income from sponsorship and race winnings than my regular job…and was able to survive.I just thought maybe I could add a perspective that many may not have considered. There are thousands more like me whose lives really do involve that facility on a daily basis. We really do love it and rely on it.I believe that happiness is nothing more than something to look forward to.The Fairgrounds has given me and many others something to look forward to for our entire lives. You make think that's pitiful or crazy. I could show you at least 100 examples of Very successful and respected Leaders whose entire careers would not exist today without that piece of property being what it has always been.Google Gil Martin, and Eddie Gossage for 2 current examples. Neither are drivers.

  13. >My brilliant idea from a noise perspective was to have EV car racing. Completely silent! How cool would that be?!What you and many others fail to take into consideration is the fact that thousands of peoples lives revolve around that piece of property…That's so not even the point. They tore down the amusement park at the fairgrounds without even batting an eyelash, and you can't tell me folks didn't have a strong emotional attachment to that facility.The same people who work at the fairgrounds and thousands more could have jobs if that property were put to a different use. There has to be a reason that Mike Curb and all of the racetrack's big boosters haven't put any skin in the game. There's a racetrack just north of town in Ridgetop, there's a racetrack west of town in Lebanon, and near as I can tell neither are making money.You know we're talking about privatizing our prisons and our schools and every other public service in the land, why the hell aren't we privatizing the dang racetrack? Either the sport is going to make money and attract private investors or it's not. Isn't that supposed to be the way these things work?You know, I have nothing against racing, I've been to some races and they're a lot of fun. But they don't have to be at the Nashville fairgrounds and there's no reason why the economic growth of the city has to be held hostage to the fond attachment some folks have to their sport. I can appreciate the sentiment but there are tons of sports that do not get city or state support of this nature — soccer, women's basketball, women's hockey .. yeah pretty much every women's sport but others too. So , my position has always been, find some benefactors to build you a racetrack or retrofit the handful of tracks in the area to the kind of racing that takes place at the fairgrounds.Anyway, I've devoted two other threads to the fairgrounds speedway, I think this one should be left to the garden.

  14. >https://www.facebook.com/pages/US-Uncut-TN/194984320526475#!/album.php?aid=2082652&id=1239285857these pictures show exactly why TDOT came in to remove the "unauthorized items and structures" and why they were brought in early. Watch the channel 5 coverage.

  15. >"Nashville's 'best-known community garden'"? Who says? Did you read that on their website? Good journalism Beale! The fact is, Carver "Food Park" is a misnomer. It was primarily a leaf dump and compost operation. The garden was always incidental. Edgehill Community Garden is a real community garden that feeds over 250 families. I know you thought you'd really struck on something utterly brilliant, pointing out that, stuff doesn't really start growing until, like, spring, and all, but if you has truly jogged by the Carver Food Park more than once or twice in your life, you'd know even in the zenith of its growing season Carver "Food Park" may have put out enough greens for a church Sunday dinner. The abundant community garden was what was sold to neighbors never materialized. So maybe asshole bloggers should get their facts straight. But if I'm wrong, hey, bygones!

  16. >Lemme see: abandoned bus, abandoned car, broken toilet planter, naked lady poster, wooden pallets, ceramic flower vase, sound system, discarded refrigerator, greenhouse full of my yard-sale finds that I'll sell one of these days, and bags and bags and bags of leaves…I got everything I need for my garden. Oops, wait, there's a U-Haul coming with a truckload of leaves in plastic bags from Williamson County to dump them…gate's locked. They'll dump it on the sidewalk and it'll sit for 6 weeks. Aw, who cares, I don't live here. Come to think of it, none of us live here. And nobody has said anything for all these years…

  17. >Lemme see: Abandoned bus with naked lady poster inside. Check. Abandoned second vehicle. Check. Abandoned third vehicle. Check. Discarded refrigerator. Check. Wooden pallets. Check. Junk strewn about. Check. Sound stage. Check. Greenhouse full of yard-sale items–gonna sell them one of these days. Check. Code violations letter from two months ago. How'd that get in there? Throw that away. And bags and bags and bags of leaves that I charge "donations" for along with my lessons in permaculture. Check. Looks like I've got everything I need for my community garden. Oh wait. Here comes a U-Haul truck with Williamson County plates coming to dump a truckload of leaves…and the gate is locked and the leaves will sit in their plastic bags on the sidewalk for 6 weeks or more. Aw, who cares. I don't live here. Come to think of it, none of us live here. Thank goodness! This place has really become a dump. Besides, I'm not hearing complaints, not many at least. And why'd they care anyway, they live next to 440. Idiots! If they do complain, no matter if they have legitimate concerns, we can silence them. We have an ace up our sleeve. People will IMMEDIATELY take our side without even listening to a word of their side of the story. They could all be liberal Democrat hippie environmentalist Scene-reading folks. It wouldn't matter. They're smart to be quiet. Good little neighbors…

  18. >Dude if you didn't want to see a naked lady poster what were you doing inside the van? Seriously? Now that T-DOT has torn down the fence that screened the property from prying eyes, I'm supposed to feel sorry for you? Fact is, all of that stuff was BEHIND A FENCE and most of that fence had honeysuckle growing over it. It wasn't laid bare for all to see, it was screened.And yeah I know there was a composting operation going on. Neighbors were invited to bring their bags of leaves out there every fall — which we did. The composting operation was part of TDOTs original deal, it's not like it was some big secret. I drove by there yesterday and saw all the fences and greenhouse were gone. Also the pavillions. No one has yet explained to me what the problems were with those items. It's hard to build a garden without a place to store tools and supplies, that's what the greenhouse was for. But no, let's not call this NIMBYism, that's just for the DFHers who don't want an oil refinery in their backyard.

  19. >And also, since I DO live there I know that your claim that leaves were dumped on the sidewalk and sat there for 6 weeks is a blatant lie.

  20. >It was not always intended to be a leaf dump. You are mistaken. It was peddled to the neighbors as a community food garden. The leaf dump "evolved." How long did you say you've lived in the 'hood? And please don't play dumb about Codes. If you built a structure in your backyard, say a soundstage, without proper foundation, etc., they'd shut you down in a half a second. And I'd like to know your theory on how three abandoned vehicles sitting there for years enhance a community garden and a neighborhood. And explain to me like I'm a real human being, because I am, how complaining about that is unreasonable. Would it be unreasonable if you called the city to come get your next door neighbor's son's abandoned VW Beetle bus when you'd been asking them for years for to do it? Of course not, and your other next door neighbor would probably have beat you to the punch and called you a chump for being so "reasonable" and waiting so long out of "liberal guilt." And what's your theory on that greenhouse that was never used for growing plants but had a whole lotta yard-sale items in it (about which the director made a teensy-weensy Freudian slip when he said in the paper, "I'm not hoarding, but…")? Please be honest for one second and tell me you'd be fine and dandy for these things to be across the street from your house. Of course, it would be really, really easy for you to say that. 'Cause then you could just go home. As one of the blog postings I read said (to paraphrase): "I loved that place. I just dumped my shit and then got the hell out."

  21. >http://s992.photobucket.com/albums/af48/sybster1000/Life%20on%20Gale%20Lane/This is how it was for us. Anyone can say anything but here it is for you to see what we had to smell, see and breathe everyday. Very little gardening was going on the past few years. I do not know why.

  22. >http://s992.photobucket.com/albums/af48/sybster1000/Life%20on%20Gale%20Lane/Here is proof of what we had to see, smell and breathe everyday as our home values plummeted. Very little gardening has taken place the last few years despite the fact that they still pulled in over 30K in donations..public knowledge.

  23. >Oh my God you think your home values plummeted because of a community garden? In case you didn't notice there was a global recession sparked by a bursting real estate bubble. And still over the years I've lived here I've seen homes on Gale Lane and Kirkwood and 12th South rehabbed and new ones built, ugly old apartments turned into the "tower" condos. There's been a huge boom in that whole area around Sevier Park. Claiming your property values plummeted because of a community garden is flat out wrong.And that is simply not true that there was very little gardening going on there. It's just not. There were people there every single weekend. Enough with the nonsense.

  24. >One of our homes was on the market and people would not even get out of their cars to view the home after seeing said "garden". We have that documented. Yes, they were over there for a few hours on a Saturday, especially the first Saturday of every month for their concerts. A few hours a month does not a garden make…..

  25. >One of our homes was on the market and people would not even get out of their cars to view the home after seeing said "garden". We have that documented. Yes, they were over there for a few hours on a Saturday, especially the first Saturday of every month for their concerts. A few hours a month does not a garden make…..

  26. >Sorry Jeff but I don't buy it. Plenty of houses around the garden have been bought and sold in the past five years, not to mention the gentrification that the neighborhood has gone through in the past 10 years. When I first moved here Sevier Park was a place for drug deals. Now the area is a nice family neighborhood. I'm not going to give the garden the credit for that but I'm not going to blame the garden for every ill the neighborhood experienced before either.

  27. >You may not "buy" it but it is accurate despite your claims. We have several Realtors' comments supporting this. Only one house has has sold in the past five years on this stretch between Leland and G. White and it was near Granny White. As far as "poor", look at the Nashville Scene's blogs. They were receiving donations of over 30K in 2008 and 2009.

  28. >Oh, man, Beale, thanks! We can all just stop writing now, because you are making our point for us!!! You say "plenty of houses in the vicinity of the park are selling" even in the recession. You are right! Like hotcakes. That's because houses in this area are desirable and selling even in the recession.They're desirable. Just not the houses on Gale Lane in front of Carver Park. The realtor said prospective buyers were very interested in the area and in the houses…the reason, and the sole reason they didn't want them, was because of the park. BUt…um, why are we talking about home values anyway? Isn't that kind of elitist? Aren't you "beyond" that? Could it be you care about your home's value? Did I detect a little neighborhood pride when you said you live in the 'hood and jog by Carver Park "every day"? Better check that.

  29. >Yes there were people in the "garden" every weekend, but what were they doing? They were messing with leaves mostly. Talking permaculture, listening to drums, but they were not gardening on a scale that could classify the place as a "community garden." Why do you continue to help perpetrate the charade that this was a Food Garden? Everyone else has pretty much admitted it was a leaf dump. And dumps of any kind do not belong on neighborhoods. Why do you continue to defend the leaf dump? The "gardens" are still there, only the leaf dump operation was "destroyed." Why don't you just give this up?

  30. >Oh wow so now people WERE in the garden but they weren't WORKING! Oh well then, bulldoze the place!Honestly the more you same three people come over whining about this garden the less inclined I am to have sympathy for you. It's always so convenient to blame others for your troubles, especially a convenient target like a group of volunteers. But you're the only ones complaining. And your claims don't hold water. Yes the ONLY houses in all of Nashville not to sell in this recession happen to be across the street from a community garden! Give me a break. Hey maybe buying a house in the shade of the freeway might not have been such a smart idea. That could easily have as much to do with the failure of your house to sell as anything else. Maybe you were asking too much money. Maybe there's a buttload of inventory out there now and you're competing with a ton of other properties. But of course the problem has to be the young hippies and kids and African Americans who made a garden.What we have here are 4 whiners in 2 houses who destroyed something used by tons of people. Ain't that America. Squeaky wheel gets the grease.Well I hope you're proud of yourself. You got what you wanted, let's see how fast your house sells now. Go be someone else's bad neighbor.