07/20/12 — Community gets a garden

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Community gets a garden

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 20, 2012 1:46 PM

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Volunteer William Hildreth measures a board as he works to create a container that will be used to house plants in a garden being created in a housing project on Edgerton Street.

When Jamela Grant lost her job recently, one thought swirled in her head -- how would she feed her family?

"I'm a single mother. I've got eight children," she said, the youngest born just a few weeks ago.

Panic set in, but so did a survival instinct.

The resident of Fairview Homes had seen neighbors planting seeds and growing their own vegetables.

"I needed some way to make sure I had food," she said. "I didn't know nothing. I pretty much learned by trial and error."

Ms. Grant actually became instrumental in a project that took root this week, working with the Pioneering Healthier Communities Alliance to bring a vegetable garden, which residents will maintain and harvest, to her neighborhood.

Wednesday morning, Alvin Bullock meticulously lined up wooden planks on his buzz saw and quickly cut the boards down to size.

"I'm cutting the materials to make the boxes," he said, gesturing to the small plot of land that would soon be converted to a garden. "We're going to make six, 4 feet by 12 feet, and some smaller herb boxes."

Bullock, retired military and then from the county in 2008, is an avid volunteer, primarily through his church but also such organizations as Habitat for Humanity.

"I have been doing this basically ever since I got out of the military," he explained. "I enjoyed being able to help people."

He was soon joined by a group of volunteers, there to till the soil and plant a fall garden of vegetables and herbs.

Kriquette Davis of the Family Y is a coach for the Pioneering Healthier Communities Alliance, formed in Goldsboro nearly three years ago and funded by a grant from the YMCA USA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Alliance is comprised of representatives from about 30 different agencies in the area, she explained, all banded together to improve the quality of life in the surrounding community.

"There's so much strength in collaboration," she said.

This week's project, building boxes for a "raised garden," will continue in the fall when another group returns to the site to create a walking track on the grounds for residents. It is, in essence, a way to connect the "physical and nutritional parts" of good health, Mrs. Davis said.

Ina Rawlinson, director of human resources at Wayne Community College, served as chairman of the Alliance's garden club committee.

"We're very excited about having a sustainable garden and helping the residents learn how to plant vegetables," she said. "They're going to plant and help maintain it and we want this to be a sustainable project that will be ongoing year after year.

"That's the whole idea, for them to be self-sufficient."

It wasn't a tough sell for the residents, Ms. Grant said.

"The toughest part was getting approval for everything," she said. "But the kids, not only is it a learning situation for them, but they also get to be part of being self-sufficient.

"This is one of those learning tools. Instead of having to wait to go to the grocery store, they can grow it out here and pick it themselves."

The Alliance also enlisted the help of Shorlette Ammons, community food system outreach coordinator with the Center for Environmental Farming Systems.

"I have done some work with Jamela in the past and the Wayne Food Initiative," she said. "They asked us to support this project, and we were excited to do it.

"The timing was excellent. We had a group of interns for the summer, who have spent the past eight weeks living in Goldsboro, from all over the country, Croatia, Honduras and various areas for the program."

The idea of a community garden is "nothing new," Ms. Ammons said, especially for an area like Wayne County, the fifth largest agriculture county in the state. But it is nevertheless a valuable investment.

"It's just great to see people reconnect," she said. "We talk about sustainability -- economically, socially and environmentally. I think it's going to be an amazing project."

Linda Cox, executive director of Wayne Uplift Resource Association, whose office is adjacent to the new garden, said Fairview youths will be among those enlisted to maintain the grounds.

"It's going to take the entire community to help take care of it," she said. "We have already talked to them about it.

"It's going to be a learning lesson for them as well."