Historical Society Property Undergoing 'Urban Farm' Transformation

A new community project is drawing people of all ages to garden together and enjoy a slice of the township's history with the "Anderson Urban Farm"

Working together, volunteers are reshaping and restoring a 9-acre piece of Anderson Township Historical Society property that's been dormant for years.
This grass roots project is a kind of throwback to the township's rural roots, organizers say. It was launched by the society, which helped organize the Urban Farm effort.

Located adjacent to Turpin High School, the property off Bartels Road includes three older homes and a bank barn. With help from Urban Farm organizer Daryl Meyerrenke, David Vogel Landscaping, Barrett Asphalt and volunteers from Crossroads Church and within the township, the site has been transformed from vacant land with deteriorating buildings into a spot for garden plots and community activities.

Over the past few months, progress has come quickly. Grounds have been cleaned up, an inventory of the contents of the homes and a large barn has been undertaken, and decisions were made about what to do with all the items on the property. Additionally, 34 plots of land designated for urban garden sites were cleared and plowed. Planting started in May, with a full cadre of gardeners who began working the land as soon as it became available.

"The transformation of this piece of ground has been astonishing," said historical society Vice President Don Perry. In just one day during the spring, "the outstanding workers from Crossroads Church and the volunteers from the Urban Farm transformed the barn from an over-stuffed building of society collections to one we can be proud of." The day after the barn cleanup, the Urban Farm volunteers hosted their first Seed Bash, a celebration attended by more than 200 supporters. Future events ideas include nature walks, live music, a chili fest, ice cream social, a township fair, a pumpkin patch/harvest festival and a haunted farm or barn tour.
"While it is our intent to add live animal learning opportunities in the coming year, we decided to focus on the infrastructure and gardens this first year," Meyerrenke said. "The first livestock will come this fall when we fulfill our responsibilities to a $6,000 grant we received from the George and Margaret McLane Foundation," he said. "We will collaborate with Mercer Elementary School in a three-phased project that has been integrated into their curriculum."

The first phase will revolve around third graders caring for and studying chickens from birth through egg production, he said. The other two phases explore the study of macro invertebrates in the stream on the property, and the replacement of invasive species of plants with indigenous native plants.

The Urban Farm group meets at 7 p.m. the third Thursday of the month at the farm, 2550 Bartels Road. Volunteers are welcome. For details, go to their Facebook page: Anderson Township Historical Society Urban Farm, or call Meyerrenke at 646-8037.