Healthy Life Community Garden will provide fresh foods for Fairmont Community

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The apple tree in the center of this photo is staying in the garden along with three others, but the 12,000 sq. ft. building on the left is being demolished to make room for more garden space. The total area of the garden will be 18,000 sq. ft.

SHEILA MARSHALL :::

Residents of the Fairmont community will have an opportunity to come together with their neighbors to raise a community garden.

With funding provided by the Griffin Housing Authority (GHA), the Healthy Life Community Garden is being coordinated by the University of Georgia-Griffin Campus, with the Spalding County Extension Service taking the lead in the hands-on effort.

“This is a project we took on because it’s needed. There are community gardens all over this country now, in urban areas, blighted areas. Land is being taken back and used to provide fresh food that’s needed,” said Spalding County Extension Agent Wade Hutcheson. “We are so far removed from the farms that I’d estimate probably 60 to 70 percent of our population doesn’t know where our food comes from or how it’s grown.”

Not only is Hutcheson taking an active role in the garden’s development, he said two program assistants – Joe Byrum and Patty Beckham – are extensively involved in the garden.

“We’ve got numerous civic clubs, garden clubs, Jewel Walker-Harps and the NAACP, Spalding County, and the city of Griffin involved, but the Griffin Housing Authority is who’s providing the funding at this time for the program assistants,” Hutcheson said.

He explained that the Healthy Life Community Garden is a component of the GHA’s Educational Prosperity Initiative.

“The huge poverty study that was conducted – this is a result of that,” he said. “This is an effort to address that – poverty and a lack of food. We’re going to train them and teach them how to be gardeners. We’re going to lead by example; we’re going to be right there beside them.”

He said the community-driven garden has 18,000-square-feet of potential garden space, but a former school building must first be demolished before soil preparation can begin.

“This is by no means a shovel-ready project,” Hutcheson said. “There is some space that is ready to garden, and we’re working to get some cool season crops in, but we’re going to be dodging the demolition that’s about to be going on.”

Byars, Beckham and a number of volunteers, including an estimated dozen children involved in Impact Racing Ministry, came together at the Griffin Area Resource Center greenhouse Wednesday, Feb. 20, to set the Healthy Life Community Garden plan in motion.

“We started hundreds of seeds, mostly cool season crops,” Byrum said.
Among the plants that got their start were greens, lettuce, peppers, a variety of herbs, cucumbers, onions, tomatillos and English peas.

“Some were chosen by the kids who showed up and some were chosen by the master gardeners who showed up,” Byars said.

Wednesday’s seed starting at the Bluebird Greenhouse is not reserved only for Fairmont residents, as Patti Robinson said other local gardeners who want to get a jump on the spring growing season are also welcome to begin their garden plants from seed.

“It is open to the community. It’s worthwhile if you want to invest the time,” Robinson said. “We rent it by the square yard, and you can start a lot of seeds in a square yard.”

The cost for seed starting in the Bluebird Greenhouse is $25 per square yard, which includes water, electricity and heat pads, and seedlings will be cared for by volunteers on a daily basis.

“We got into this because we’re believers in self-reliance,” Robinson said. “If a community can’t feed itself – if you have to depend on trucks shipping food in from California – you aren’t really independent.”

 

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