Help grow this project

Published 2:26 am Friday, October 3, 2008

By Staff
Hopefully, the seeds planted at the Washington City Council meeting Monday by the Beaufort County Master Gardener program will help produce the Beaufort Community Gardens.
The program, operated with assistance from the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service, should help feed people in the community. The Beaufort County Master Gardener program is seeking support for the community gardens from the city. If all goes as planned, area residents taking part in the program could begin planting next spring.
It’s a project that deserves support from the city, not to mention other local governments and social-services agencies.
Plans call for offering 40 garden plots (or 80 plots if demand for the plots warrants it) that are renewable annually to area residents at low cost on a first-come, nondiscriminating basis for production of personal-use garden vegetables, according to project organizers. Potential garden-plot holders could include urban families, senior citizens, school groups and youth organizations.
Project organizers want to use a 1.1-acre site on the city-owned Warren Field Airport for the garden plots. The site is off Airport Road across from the N.C. State Cooperative Extension Service’s offices. The site is adjacent to the overflow parking lot at the McConnell Sports Complex.
In addition to being able to grow vegetables and thereby help reduce their food costs, people who participate in the program will benefit from the exercise they will get as they work in their gardens. The combination of locally-grown vegetables and exercise should help make program participants healthier.
As people are at their gardens to tend to them or harvest vegetables, they will be provided with opportunities to socialize with one another. The gardens could become a catalyst for residents from throughout the community to get to know one another and better understand one another.
The project should also help preserve green space.
The program has a $4,500 budget for 40 plots, a storage shed and other amenities. Some of that money will be used to prepare the 1.1-acre site for the gardens. Adding another 40 plots to the project would add $1,800 to the project’s estimated cost.
Program organizers are asking the city for a five-year lease of the 1.1-acre site so it can be used for a community garden. They want the city to provide technical and financial assistance by providing water to irrigate the garden plots and installing security lighting at the site. They also want the city, when possible, to provide in-kind assistance for the project such as providing organic mulch by way of the city’s leaf-collection service. They also want the city to become a partner in the project and appoint a city representative to attend periodic meetings concerning the program.
Those are reasonable requests that should receive careful consideration from city officials. The city should support the project because it likely will result in improving the community’s quality of life.
The city should help plant the seeds for the project and reap some of its benefits.