A cold winter afternoon is the perfect time to sit down with a neighbor over a cup of coffee and think through the possibilities of planning a garden – together.
A cold winter afternoon is the perfect time to sit down with a neighbor over a cup of coffee and think through the possibilities of planning a garden – together. Community gardens can be found across North Carolina and they provide a unique way to bring people together for conversation and food production.
The community garden is not a new concept. Communal efforts to sustain people have been around since humans gave up hunting and gathering for a more staid existence.
As a result, community gardens offer a uniquely positive and non-threatening environment that can include and inspire a diverse group of people, especially when they are situated in a public or inner city location.
North Carolina has a long history of community gardens dating back to 1753 and the earliest-documented community garden in the Moravian town of Bethabara, near Winston-Salem. Today, that parcel of land is managed by the city parks department and is under cultivation by residents who rent small gardening plots for personal use.
Also in the Piedmont, a program called Reap More Than You Sow identifies potential garden spaces, garden leaders, and funding sources.Working with community members and organizations, the program’s coordinator, Wallace Williamson, organized more than a dozen community garden in 2011. The garden sites produced more than 1,000 pounds of fresh vegetables for garden participants and the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina.
Churches, neighborhood associations, and civic organizations interested in community gardens to provide growing opportunities for participants and to address issues of hunger and food production in their communities.
“Nationally, there is a real push for local foods, and community gardens and farmers markets are a big part of that,” says Sara Quandt of Wake Forest University’s Transitional Science Institute.
The community garden at Pinedale Christian Church in Winston-Salem provides a friendly meeting place for a diverse group of neighbors. Two dozen families, working in 19 raised beds, grow their own food and, last year, invited the public to enjoy a sample at a tasting party.
Other programs include Guilford County’s Share the Harvest effort, which works with community gardens to collect and distribute extra locally grown produce to people and organizations around the county.
North Carolina A & T State University coordinates community gardening efforts throughout the state with gardening experts and demonstration programs in low-income neighborhoods.
And in Eastern North Carolina, cooperative extension agents in Pitt and New Hanover counties work with residents at public, vegetable garden sites and offer hands-on assistance for gardeners with special needs.
Researching all of the possibilities is key to the success of a community garden. Grant money may be available through community foundations, and building supply companies may be willing to provide lumber or hardware for constructing raised beds.
Here are some additional resources:
For more than 30 years, Toby Bost has been a resource to North Carolina gardeners and growers as an agricultural extension agent, a trainer for master gardeners, and an author. His books include The Successful Gardener Guide: North Carolina, North Carolina Gardener’s Guide, and The Carolina Gardener’s Guide. He can be reached through Our State magazine at email@example.com