KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — It goes without saying a diet rich in fruits and vegetables goes a long way when it comes to good health. For many, getting to the grocery store isn’t easy when a grocery store isn’t nearby. 

At Payne Avenue Missionary Baptist Church in East Knoxville, souls are being saved inside the building, while bodies are being nourished on the grounds outside.

“This is something that we’re still extremely excited about. One of my goals was to have – on different churches – to have community gardens,” Chris Battle said. “And this is one that started here at Payne Avenue, it’s 36 raised beds of beautiful soil.”

Chris Battle of Battlefield Farm & Garden. (Photo: WATE)

Beautiful soil is something that brings joy to Chris Battle of Battlefield Farm & Garden. He’s a longtime pastor-turned-farmer who fights food disparity. It’s a different type of ministry.

“I think it means a lot to just be able to grow your own food, to get into the soil,” he said. “There’s something about working in the soil that just brings calm. As we talked about shalom, and peace, and wholeness to the person or individual and just watch his stuff grow and then being able to eat it on top of that and knowing that it’s nutritious knowing where it came from.”

Battlefield Farm and the Knox County Community Gardens & Growers Alliance are bringing this latest community garden project to Payne Avenue. More than 30 people and organizations in the community have adopted the garden beds.

“So, we’re just excited about the fact that gardening is hitting the ‘one-five’ zip code,” Battle said.

The “one-five” – that’s the 37915 ZIP code that lacks a grocery store.

“[The] ultimate goal is to raise 8,500 pounds of produce this year here and 10 percent of that will go to the community for the food bank and Fannie Lou but we will distribute it out to the needy,” Battle explained.

Fannie Lou is the Battlefield Farm bus that distributes produce to those who otherwise wouldn’t have the transportation to buy fresh food.

“I think there is this movement that’s happening in the community. I’m just glad to be a part of it. Watching people take some sovereignty over their own food and their own nutrition, I think that is so important,” he said. 

And Battle’s mission to nourish the community is catching on.

You can learn more about Chris Battle on the next Voices of the Valley on Sunday, May 28, 2023 at 9:30 a.m. on WATE 6 On Your Side.