The Farm at Los Olivos passed an important hurdle on March 22, when the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board voted to move forward with the project.
It's an urban farm being developed for Los Olivos Park, located at 2802 East Devonshire Avenue, just north of Indian School Road at 28th Street, where you'll find a senior center, playground, and an expanse of grassy space.
Artist Matthew Moore and restaurateur Aric Mei are behind the project, created through their company called Greenbelt Hospitality. Moore is a fourth-generation Arizona farmer. Mei owns The Parlor Pizzeria.
Phoenix put out a call for proposals to bring a market element to the park in 2017. Greenbelt’s proposal was chosen, but they had to gather community feedback and secure the board’s approval before going any further.
"It's been so moving and humbling to see all the support," Moore says of getting to this stage of the project.
Now, they can move on to the next step.
That will involve negotiating a contract with the city of Phoenix, since The Farm is being developed as a public/private partnership. The process can take several months, according to Inger Erickson, director for Phoenix Parks and Recreation.
“Up to this point, it’s all been conceptual,” she says.
It could be a year before Greenbelt breaks ground on the Farm, which will occupy fewer than five acres of land on the northwest portion of the 26-acre park.
In the meantime, the city will make changes to that portion of the park, including relocating disk-golf targets (for Frisbee play) and improving other grassy areas for youth who play soccer at the park.
After they break ground, they'll plant crops. But those take time to grow, adding another six months to a year to the timeline, Erickson says.
It will likely be two or three years until the farm can sell crops to the community, she says. Current plans call for the project to include a two-acre organic farm, farm-to-table restaurant, market stand, and education center.
No city funds will be used to develop, operate, or maintain the urban working farm. It's being funded by Greenbelt Hospitality, which will eventually make money from the project through restaurant and farmer's market sales.
For a time, it looked like the farm might not get approval from the community. A small but vocal contingent expressed concerns that the farm would disrupt other elements of the park experience. But more than 4,000 people showed their support, through an online petition at Change.org.
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In the end, the project garnered 80 percent support from community members.
Erickson notes that 1,700 people weighed in with the city through various means – including public meetings, surveys, and e-mails. "This is so much bigger than just us," Moore says of all the community member's who've gotten involved. "We see so much hope here."
Now that The Farm is moving forward, community members can get more information on the city’s website, which has a page dedicated to providing updates.
“I would hope that it’s received well and it’s something that proves good for a walkable community,” Erickson says. “It’s a new opportunity to use a park space in a different way, and it really has the ability to increase community engagement.”