Nurturing a good idea

Published 10:06 am Friday, November 14, 2008

By Staff
When the Washington City Council was approached earlier this year about helping support a community-garden project close to Warren Field Airport, it was a fairly safe bet the city would provide some form of support.
But when Ann Darkow, director of the Beaufort County Cooperative Extension Service, told the City Council on Monday that organizers of the project were committed to raising the money to pay for items such as tap fees instead of asking the city to waive those fees, there was little doubt the city would support the project.
As this newspaper has said before, it is a project that deserves support.
And as Councilman Archie Jennings noted, the city government and the community must appreciate the decision by project organizers to raise money to cover the tap fees instead of asking the city to waive those fees, especially when the city is facing a loss of revenue because of a poor economy. It is heartening to see a project’s organizers do their part to make their project a success without relying on taxpayers to do so.
Still, the city should support the project, which it is doing by providing a five-year lease for the 1.1-acre site where the project will be located.
The Beaufort County Master Gardener program is behind the Beaufort Community Gardens project, being supported with assistance from the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service. The project should help feed people in the county.
Besides growing food, the project should help grow relationships. More on that later.
The project calls for providing 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 will use the 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 plots will be adjacent to the overflow parking lot at the McConnell Sports Complex.
As program participants tend their gardens or harvest what they have grown there, they will realize opportunities to socialize with one another. The gardens should become a catalyst for residents from throughout the community to get to know one another and better understand one another.
Aside from being able to grow vegetables, which should help lower food costs, the gardeners should benefit from the physical activity they perform as they work in their gardens. The combination of locally-grown vegetables and exercise should help make program participants healthier.
Program organizers would like for the city, if 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.
By supporting this program, the city would likely see any return on its participation in the program be far greater than its investment in the program.
These gardeners will be growing more than food in their gardens. They will be growing a sense of community and hopes for healthier minds and bodies.