Roanoke Natural Food Co-op farm key to building a community within the Roanoke Centre for Industry and Technology business park in Roanoke, Virginia

[GBP Note:  This is a fantastic example of how to create a sense of community (and value for tenants) within a business or industrial park.  In addition to "greening" the park by growing organic foods on site, the neighbors can eat and mingle at picnic tables and they discuss common issues like bus service and emergency preparedness.]

Roanoke Natural Food Co-op farm fits in at industry park 

The co-op’s farm is cultivating community along with food in its “neighborhood” at the Roanoke Centre for Industry and Technology business park.

byDavid Ress
The Roanoke Times

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

He’s started planting the back 40 — well the back 3 1⁄2 anyway — and Roanoke Natural Food Co-op farm manager Sean Jordan’s eggs and greens are already making their way to the co-op’s store in Grandin Village.

At the far end of Blue Hills Drive in the Roanoke Centre for Industry and Technology business park, up the hill from an old log house, Jordan is busy reversing the usual march of economic history, setting up the co-op’s new urban farm called Heritage Point.

At the park, the progression this spring isn’t the historical one of farm-to-factory. Instead, it is growing from bustling commerce to glossy feathered chickens, picking happily away at seeds and bugs as they range freely, the old-fashioned way, in the grass of a storm water retention basin.

As Jordan scrambles to get his spring planting done and a farm stand set up for a formal opening June 8, the business park may be moving to something else, too.

It is becoming a kind of neighborhood, says Mike Rigney, vice president of operations at Orvis, which employs some 500 people in the park.

“You’ve got 2,500 people, their Tier 1 companies, this beautiful park in Southwest Virginia … it’s a community,” he said.

He gets a kick out of the idea that progress at the booming industrial park looks rather like one of the earliest farms in the Roanoke Valley.

Having a farm stand place at the end of the street where neighbors can pick up some fresh food, or maybe a gallon of milk, is going to make it seem that much more neighborly, he said.

Like many a Roanoke neighborhood, people in the park get together for an annual trash pickup — it has grown from 80 people last year to 138 from eight or nine different companies this year, Rigney said. People still talk about the spread of food laid on afterward at this year’s effort.

At tenants’ meetings, there’s lot of talk about the need for sidewalks, just as there is in many other neighborhoods.

The neighbors in the park talk about ways to bring bus service in, or at least reduce the long hike many workers make to the end of the bus line, at King Avenue. They’re bringing in the Red Cross for their next meeting, to talk about how they can work together for emergencies like last summer’s derecho.

They’ve been telling Jordan they can’t wait for the farm stand or to walk over to the picnic tables he plans to set up near the old horse barn for the former police mounted squad.

“A neighborhood can be a group of people living next to each other, but a community can also be a lot of people working next to each other,” Jordan said.


Click here for full article and photo in The Roanoke Times




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