Q&A: R. Bentley Marlow, Vice Chair of Redeeming Hope Ministries

Vice chair of Redeeming Hope Ministries, R. Bentley Marlow has created an Indiegogo online fund-raising campaign to create a large vegetable garden in Fort Sanders to benefit the underprivileged and transient community.

What is your own gardening/farming background?

Growing up, my grandfather and I always had a garden, about an acre or more each summer. After living in Mechanicsville for the past nine years, I've come to realize that an acre is huge and gardens can grow just about anywhere!

Have you done any of the recipe demonstrations at RHM's alternate Wednesday Food in the Fort events?

Unfortunately, midday Wednesday doesn't fit well with my schedule. And my approach to cooking is to just throw things together, heat, and then eat! (Do not try this at home.) For good reason we leave the recipes and cooking demonstrations to Casey Littell, proprietor of Hot Momma Soups. Everything she makes is delicious, except beets; beets are never delicious.

What is your favorite vegetable? Do you share RHM director Eddie Young's distrust of okra?

The fried vegetable, or the vegetable accompanied with butter—or cheese, or bacon. Yeah, the bacon-accompanied vegetable is my favorite. And yes, okra is an untrustworthy vegetable, and much like green tomatoes it is best breaded and thrown in hot bacon grease.

What are you asking people to throw in for, exactly?

The plan is to maybe purchase a couple of vacant lots in an upcoming city auction. I am also in discussions with Phil Bonifacio at Acadia Landscape Co. to build our own greenhouse. By reaching out through Indiegogo, we hope to raise enough "green" to make this a self-sustaining operation that provides paying jobs for our friends experiencing homelessness.

What is their greatest need that you can meet with this project?

This project will produce and provide fresh, organic vegetables through Food in the Fort. On café days, the vegetables will be used to prepare the lunch we offer our friends; on market days, raw vegetables will be offered to those living on the edge of homelessness—those who have access to a kitchen, but are often unable to pay rent and afford wholesome food.

How did you get involved with Redeeming Hope?

During law school I spent a summer in Nashville rebuilding a house. I was drawn to The Contributor, Nashville's street paper, and thought a street paper was needed in Knoxville. The Contributor's publisher, Tasha, told me about Eddie Young and his desires for a street paper in Knoxville. After several Scotches and a few long nights, we published the inaugural issue of The Amplifier in November 2010.

Can you promise a little extra something from you if you meet your goal,like kissing a pig?

If our Indiegogo campaign hits 100 percent I'll kiss a snotty nosed pig and provide mojitos at the garden for any who wishes to participate.

Do you have any family that has been or will be involved?

My neighbors are like family and they are very much involved. I've even got the stray cats signing up for vermin duty.

What do you see as your primary contribution?

I'm the crazy dude that took over an abandoned lot, borrowed a tractor, and set up a Facebook page—so you could call me a trespassing, tractor-driving, Facebooking dude making a difference.

To learn more: indiegogo.com/individuals/3095673