There’s something good growing at the Wayne County Public Library — both people and plants — says librarian Donna Phillips.
Most already recognize the benefits of reading and checking out the wealth of information ripe for picking at the local library.
But there is also a community garden on the premises that could use a little tending.
“The weeds have taken over,” Phillips said. “Two of our beds are decaying and need to be reconstructed.”
The community garden boasts a rich 12-year history, and has grown in both popularity and support, she said.
“This garden was built in June of 2006, so we’ve just celebrated our 12th summer planting season and this fall will be our 13th,” Phillips said, crediting Shorlette Ammons, former children’s library and director of children’s services, with launching what was dubbed “a garden of understanding” to the area.
Others like then-librarian Jane Rustin and Cherry Research Farm pitched in with the layout and construction, aided by such partners as Goldsboro Parks and Recreation, Wayne County Cooperative Extension, Boys and Girls Club and area residents volunteering their time. The agriculture class at Wayne Community College also took advantage of the teachable moment, having students prepare the garden.
As a tribute to the diverse representation of supporters, a peace pole was added, which still stands in the center of the garden.
“It’s transcribed — in English, Spanish, Arabic and Mandarin — and it reads, ‘May peace prevail on Earth,’” Phillips said.
“Every season has taken on a different theme and different methodology but that first planting season, it was really important to us that the plants that we planted were a reflection of the ethnicity in our community.”
So it stands to reason that the diversity be a cornerstone of the little plot of land — from the variety of produce and herbs grown there to those who tend the soil.
“It was and always has been a very organic garden, so it was important to us that we help children through this garden understand that we’re all more alike than we are different,” Phillips said. “But we also wanted these children, who oftentimes have lived in the city and didn’t know where their food came from or know much about some foods that are better for us, we wanted them to learn those concepts from there.”
For the past three summers, Desiree Kelchen has led a summer reading program for children, with one day a week devoted to the garden. In addition to guiding them into understanding where different foods come from, students learn how their garden grows — by pulling weeds and gaining a greater understanding about the food chain.
“We had some people come in and talk to the children about worms and we had two different beekeepers come in and talk to the children. We also talk about compost,” Kelchen said.
While things change up every year, one consistent element has been in the bumper crop harvest. This past summer, for example, there was a wealth of potatoes produced, said Camelia Walker, head of circulation.
“We have grown eggplant, jalapenos, we’ve had peppers, tomatoes, squash, zucchini and okra,” Kelchen said. “Other things we have planted, last year WCC donated a whole gamut of seedlings — lettuce, broccoli, cabbage. Long’s Plant Farm has donated plants.”
The library has no problem sharing the wealth, either.
“Most of it goes to the children,” Kelchen said. “But when we’ve had a surplus of food we’d put in, we’ve put it out in front of the circulation desk — patrons love it.”
Funding to maintain the outdoor project has come from a variety of sources, from the library’s Foundation and Friends of the Library to individual and group donations.
Residents have also been plentiful in offering up one priceless gift — their time.
“The community has helped us, and we love to see people out in the garden,” Phillips said. “Another thing that happens in the garden that people may not know is how they barter for things like weeding.”
Some may lend help on a regular basis, others stopping in to check out books or return them and seeing the need, will take a few minutes to tend the garden, she said.
Now that it’s off season, though, it seems like the perfect time to prepare the land for even more gardeners.
“What we would like to do is remove the beds completely and add raised beds,” Phillips said.
The raised beds for flowers and vegetables will allow for more accessibility to people in wheelchairs and others with limited mobility who may have difficulty bending over or stooping down.
“The community has helped us, and we love to see people out in the garden,” Phillips said. “We couldn’t just dig it up without explaining.
“Because this community loves this garden, before we just tore it up, we want the (public) to know.”