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Leaders ponder putting community garden in midtown Gainesville

POSTED: May 16, 2014 11:51 p.m.

The fad of urban community gardens has become a bona fide trend in recent years, spreading from New York City rooftops to Los Angeles’ suburban streets. 

The gardens provide an opportunity for people to share the benefits of homegrown produce — and the benefits can be substantial. 

Hoping to capitalize on this trend, the Hall County Green Alliance has begun drumming up interest in developing a community garden in Gainesville. 

“We’re always on the leading edge,” said Frank Armstrong, a Gainesville attorney helping to spearhead the project. 

A half-acre site for the garden, to be called Jubilee Farm, has been identified. The city-owned vacant lot is at the corner of Grove and Davis streets in the industrial part of the city, south of Jesse Jewell Parkway and Browns Bridge Road. 

The property is a designated brownfield site, meaning environmental pollutants resulting from former commercial and industrial uses may have contaminated the land. As a result, Armstrong said the garden would be constructed with raised beds. 

Armstrong said the goal is to establish a nonprofit educational organization to manage the garden and distribute its resources to the public. 

“It’s great to see that coming together so well,” Gainesville City Councilwoman Ruth Bruner said. 

As part of this mission, Armstrong said the nonprofit would help “green” the industrial area, teach gardening courses, provide nutritional education to the community and provide food to the hungry. 

“I think it’s a great concept,” Councilman Sam Couvillon said. 

Armstrong said partnerships, including one with the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, were already being formed to meet these goals. 

“The food bank benefits from community partnerships” like this, said Executive Director Kay Blackstock, adding the need for cheap, nutritional food never wanes.

Blackstock said she visited Detroit several years ago and saw how community gardens can help revitalize low-income neighborhoods. 

Piggybacking on this idea, Councilman George Wangemann said the garden could instill a sense of ownership among participants, thereby breeding camaraderie. 

But community gardens are not just for the financially strapped. Blackstock said healthy eating is vital to everyone’s quality of life. 

Armstrong said the garden would rely heavily on volunteer support for upkeep and educational purposes. However, it’s possible local governments might contribute funding in the future. 

There is no timeline for breaking ground on the garden. City officials said they needed to meet with DOT officials and an environmental lawyer to hammer out issues involving a project the transportation department has in the area. 

Though the project will take some time to get off the ground, city officials have expressed support. 

“I see only good, good, good and good,” Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras said.


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