Growth in Community Gardens Prompts Tour

It is not surprising that many of us are trying to stretch our food budgets as the recession continues. One way we are achieving this is by growing our own food. Attendance in the classes on home food production, offered by North Carolina Cooperative Extension, was at an all time high this summer.

Unfortunately, many do not have access to land that would allow them to do this. What they are turning to are community gardens. Community Gardening is not a new concept; modern community gardens have their roots in the Victory Gardens of World War II, but community gardening predates those World War II gardens by more than 350 years.

In 1649, a groups of English peasants known as the Diggers assembled in Surry and began to cultivate the common land which belonged to the kings. Here in the United States, we have what may be the oldest community garden, located in Winston-Salem in historic Bethabara Park, the site of the first Moravian settlement. Dating back to 1759, historic Bethabara Park now features the only known example of a reconstructed half-acre colonial community garden.

The Extension Service in Guilford County has been community gardening with the assistance of the Master Gardeners for more than 10 years now. Their first garden — Mixed Greens Community Garden — located at the Agricultural Center, has 78 plots leased by a diverse population of Greensboro residents. In this garden, you will find everything from traditional tomatoes and green beans, to the Asian bitter melons and African spinach.

This year we had what was “the perfect storm” for community gardening: the economy made it essential for families to try to stretch their food budgets by growing their own produce; food safety issues encouraged people to take control over what they feed their families; environmental concerns over how far produce is shipped before it reaches us made people want to “eat local” whenever possible

Also, American consumers increasingly realized the health benefits of gardening — not just in terms of healthy fresh produce, but in terms of the physical activity involved in growing that nutritious food.

This year, 15 new community gardens in a range of sizes and neighborhoods were established with the help of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Guilford County.

We are so excited about this explosive growth we want to share these gardens with you with our first ever “Tour of Community Gardens.” This tour will showcase the diversity, potential, and excitement surrounding community gardening in Guilford County.

Visitors will have an opportunity to see what plot holders are doing to save on grocery bills, feed their families better tasting and more wholesome food, and in many cases, also contribute fresh vegetables to those in need in our community.

Our “Ask A Master Gardener” exhibit will be set up at the Mixed Greens Community Garden, at 3309 Burlington Road. They will have information on starting a community garden as well as general vegetable gardening information, including a planting guide.

The tour will be held on Thursday from 4-8 p.m., rain or shine. Visitors can choose to see one, some, or all of the gardens. For detailed information on each garden, as well as a map and directions, go to www.guilfordgardenanswers.org. You can also call the Cooperative Extension Office with any questions.

 Contact Karen Neill, an agricultural extension agent with the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service, at 375-5876 or karen_neill@ncsu.edu.

New and Record Article – July 18th, 2009

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Randy McManus

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