Berryville plants seeds for ‘Giving Garden’ project

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The “Giving Garden” project is sprouting at the Berryville Community Center (BCC).

Joe Scott, director of Berryville Parks and Recreation Department, met with representatives from the Berryville School District, Loaves and Fishes Food Bank, the Carroll County Senior Activity and Wellness Center, the Carroll County Cooperative Extension Service and other community organizations at BCC on Thursday, Feb. 2, to explain plans for the Giving Garden and how the community can be involved with the project.

Scott said that the goal of the project is to utilize the wealth of knowledge in the community and share it with local youth to incorporate the importance of gardening in their lives.

“The name is the ‘Giving Garden.’ We started this project with the dialogue of a community garden, but a lot of people have a certain concept in mind for community gardens,” he said. “We’re distinguishing our project somewhat from that idea.”

Scott continued, “Our focus will be to inform and educate folks. We hope to get various components of the community involved in this project so they’re learning and working. We’re placing an emphasis on the education side of things so that people might take the knowledge gained from working in the garden and apply it to something in this area.”

The objectives of the project, he said, are to produce local vegetables and fruits for the senior center, Meals on Wheels or local food banks, strengthen relationships between youth and seniors via working side by side in the garden, establish work ethics of area youth, demonstrate various uses of the fruits of their labor including preparation and preservation, provide important information for school projects or organizations and develop a sense of pride in assisting the community with fresh produce.

“What I really want to emphasize is the community aspect of the ‘Giving Garden’ idea,” Scott said. “I believe it will not only give in terms of produce to those in need but also move on and spread knowledge.”

He said community involvement will be crucial to the project because the parks and recreation staff is limited in terms of physical staff and available time to spend on the garden.

“Mayor Tim McKinney is backing this project, but he has made it clear to me that we just don’t have the personnel to spend very much time on it,” Scott said. “We are looking to the community for help with that.”

He said the parks and recreation department has been working with David Ray of Berryville, who recently retired from his position as landscape maintenance and garden supervisor for College of the Ozarks, to make plans for the garden.

Ray said College of the Ozarks began a pilot gardening program in 2008. He said they began with six 15-by-50-foot raised garden beds and grew tomatoes and green beans.

“We found the greatest need and desire of the end user, or consumer, was knowing where the produce is coming from,” he said. “What we get a lot of time is produce that is picked prematurely. They use preservatives so that it can be shipped by road to us.”

While local, Ray said the produce from the garden was not organic because there are issues such as disease and insects that must be prevented. The organic approach would not have produced the needed volume of produce, he said.

“We wound up producing vegetables for the campus restaurant, the cafeteria and the farmers’ market,” Ray said. “It takes input from the community and those involved, which were students in our case. It takes support because it’s very labor intensive.”

Scott said the Giving Garden will be located on the BCC campus and will begin with a system of 10 3-by-25-foot raised beds. Ray said the raised beds prevent contamination by stopping runoff and keeping animals, such as rabbits, from easily accessing the garden.

Scott said the plants will be rotated out and replaced with subsequent plants as they mature out. The beds, he said, will consist of weed barriers, soil, plants, drip line irrigation and plastic coverings to minimize weeds and maintain moisture. The garden will be surrounded by a chain-linked fence and poultry wire for an additional barrier, he said.

He said the garden is currently designed for future growth, and the parks and recreation department has grants on hand and resources to apply for additional grants to help with the costs of the project.

“As far as community support, I think that could come in the form of some of the entities represented here,” Scott said. “We would be able to develop a work schedule and integrate individuals if there’s an interest in the project.”

For example, he said some of the key players might be the children who attend BCC’s Summer Youth Program over the summer.

“We hope to integrate that group because they’re on our campus,” Scott said. “The issue is that they’re in a window of time from June 1 to about mid-August. For the garden to be successful, it will need to run in a year-round phase.”

He said the Giving Garden can hopefully be used to provide produce to the senior center and possibly set up a booth at the farmers’ market. Any revenue generated by the farmers’ market booth would go back into the garden project, he said.

“It’s sort of a closed loop,” Scott said. “We have some grant money that will allow us to make some purchases and establish the garden, but we need individuals from the community to help us maintain it.”

Ray said that one of the most immediate needs for the garden project is greenhouse access so that vegetables can be planted this spring. High school principal David Gilmore said the school district had two greenhouses, one at the outdoor classroom at the intermediate school and one at the high school.

“From the school perspective, we would very much be interested in helping out,” Gilmore said. “We have plant science classes in the high school, and I would love for them to be involved in this. I’m hesitant to tell you how much space we can give you because we do fill that greenhouse up in the spring.”

He asked Ray if they could meet with the agriculture teachers at the high school and determine how much space the Giving Garden project will need. Ray said he could do so.

Scott said other short-term tasks for the garden project include building the garden beds, doing the irrigation layout within the next 30 days and putting on the plastic coverings.

“If you can think of anyone in your circles that wants to help with the creation of the garden beds, that’s some larger work that will have to be done in a 30 to 45 day window,” he said. “We’ve had some capstone groups from the school approach us wanting to help, and we will hopefully utilize those individuals as soon as next week in order to build the beds.”

Gilmore said he may have some high school students in need of community service hours, and Carla Mann, director of the Carroll County Senior Activity and Wellness Center, said she knows of some seniors who are interested in helping with the project and teaching youth about gardening.

Scott encouraged the representatives present to think about what role their organizations may have in the Giving Garden project.

“There is room for future development, but we want to start out on a scale we think we can manage,” he said. “Hopefully, this project will be successful, and we can expand it into the future.”

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