The recent rain has been very good for the Georgia Mountain Food Bank as the seeds from its first community garden begin to grow and flourish.
The food bank has considered the idea of having a community garden outside of its new facility on Calvary Industrial Drive in Gainesville since the building was constructed last year.
The opportunity for the garden came when the Gainesville Jaycees asked what kind of physical labor they could offer to help the nonprofit.
“I just asked if there was anything over there we could do, if we could help move inventory or anything” said Scotty Hall, Jaycees board member and work projects leader. “We always like to do something with more physical labor involved because that helps get some of our guys more motivated to actually go and work on a work project.”
Hall was asked if they could build a garden.
As an insurance agent at Turner Wood and Smith with a degree in landscaping and horticulture, Hall jumped at the opportunity to put his love of gardening to work.
“I feel like if there is something that can benefit the community and has to do with the outdoors I’m all about it,” Hall said. “Anything we can do to get people outside to help other people, it’s just a bunch of positives.”
Because the area around the food bank has a high population of deer, the Jaycees had to think of a way to keep wildlife out the garden. They cut down bamboo poles and made a fence from deer netting.
Georgia Mountain Food Bank Executive Director Kay Blackstock laughed as she described the 70-by-60 foot garden.
She calls the fence her “Gilligan’s Island fence.”
“It’s looking pretty good,” Blackstock said. “All I’m seeing is green so I don’t know what’s going on under the ground in there, but everything is coming up pretty healthy and all this rain has been good.”
The garden, she said, is just another way the food bank is a “community place.”
Once volunteers start harvesting the vegetables, the produce will be given to hungry people in the community.
The Sunshine Seniors group, who regularly host produce stands in underserved neighborhoods, will use the vegetables this summer to promote healthy eating.
Some of the produce will be used in the food bank’s summer lunch program that provides sack lunches to school children who are on free and reduced lunch during the school year.
“We have cucumbers and carrots that definitely with a little container of low-fat, yogurt-based ranch dressing will be a nice nutritious healthy snack to go in those lunch packs,” Blackstock said.
Blackstock said she’s grateful for the assistance and advice from the Jaycees and many other community volunteers.
Hall and other Jaycees will continue to drop by and check on the garden from month to month.
Hall said he hopes the Jaycees will get more opportunities to build community gardens. By being able to participate in the growth and development of a low-cost, relatively low-maintenance community garden, Hall said he thinks communities would benefit.
“I think Gainesville could use some more of these types of projects,” Hall said. “There is a lot of unused space and a community garden will really give the community a sense of its own place and more pride in their area.”