Story by Tiffany Narron. Photos by Olivia Jackson
With another growing season upon us, it’s important to locate both community and giving gardens in the area for resources, volunteer opportunities and community connection. The Western NC Alliance for Gardens That Give hopes to help in all of those endeavors.
As a group of volunteers, garden managers and other participants representing diverse models of community gardens in WNC, these gardeners have one main thing in common: they grow food for donation. A collection of 15 giving gardens spread throughout Western North Carolina, their mission is to support each other’s success through the sharing of resources, experience and knowledge.
No two gardens are alike as each is community-specific. Several are modeled after The Lord’s Acre, a giving garden that executive director Susan Sides operates in Fairview alongside a board, garden manager and a couple of interns in addition to community volunteers. Their garden donates anywhere between eight and 12 tons of fresh, organic food yearly to those in need, distributing to local food pantries and faith centers including Food for Fairview, Fairview Welcome Table, Share Market and organizations such as Green Opportunities and Bounty and Soul.
Dig In Yancey is entering its seventh season this year and is expanding to a new plot of land just outside of Burnsville. Last year alone they donated 10,000 pounds of fresh food. Garden manager and organizational director Kathleen Wood says the organization acts as a community connector and equalizer. “What we’ve discovered in Yancey County as a rural community is that there’s a lot of pride around having a community garden that really functions well and is stable and visible,” she says. “The folks who regularly volunteer with us really appreciate that space to come and meet people and form community with others. Dig In has always been successful as a place where anybody and everybody is welcome and I think that’s an important role that we play.”
Wood also highlights the importance that community and giving gardens can play in bridging the gap from the emergency food system to the farmers market as the EFS mainly consists of corporate food surplus, dried foods and canned goods. The mission of the Gardens that Give network is to provide fresh, local “highest quality food that anyone as a human right should have,” says Wood.
Lynn Pegg of Buncombe County Recreation Services and organizer of the Sand Hill Community Garden echoes a similar sentiment. “I still feel like people do not realize the benefits of community gardens,” she says. “Not only are you able to grow fresh food for your family but, in most cases, for many other families who may not have any access to fresh produce.” The Sand Hill Community Garden began in 2011 after Buncombe County Recreation Services applied for and received a grant from Nourishing North Carolina, a partnership between Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC and the North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, whose goal was to establish or enhance community gardens in every county in the state by the end of 2013.
“If there’s a way that our community has the capacity to grow and feed itself, we will do that, and have that table open and available,” says Wood. “If we’re thinking about how we can meet people—heart to heart and hand to hand—in a way that recognizes we’ve all got resources and we’ve all got limitations, this is just one of the ways that we’re able to do that. This is one of the ways we find ourselves in community.”
Dig In Yancey invites readers to help them break ground on their new land Saturday, May 6. Learn more at diginyancey.org. The Lord’s Acre hosts its annual square dance and fundraiser Saturday, May 20. Learn more on their Facebook page. You can follow The Western NC Alliance for Gardens That Give on Facebook. See www.nccgp.org/garden_directory for a directory of links to all the Community Gardens in our region.