Only one block from a typical urban strip in downtown Silver Spring, MD, that includes an old parking garage, a beauty parlor and an Ethiopian restaurant, Charlie Koiner, who’ll be 88 in November, still has a farm. It’s hard to believe, but turning east onto Easley Street off Fenton, in the course of one block, you shift from urban grime to fertile rural splendor, from the cramped seat of your hot car to a comfy lawn chair under a mature shade tree, from the usual “rodent issue” to a farm cat named Hank.
Like the proverbial turtle, slow and steady, Charlie Koiner seems to have won the race, as his lifetime of farming and gardening has propelled him from “regular guy” to local pace-setter, an icon of the “new” urban agriculture. You first realize you’re at his place when, right there on the corner, you get a glimpse of his current offerings on a handmade sign – for example, “figs,” “raspberries” and “tomatoes” right now in September. Then you see the whole thing: his acre -- which appears much larger amid the neighborhood of modest World War II era homes with neat little yards – is brimming with a stunning variety of vegetables, berry bushes and fruit trees. Multicolored zinnias and gladioli, and magenta cockscomb celosia in the central plot give the whole place a festive atmosphere.