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Gainesville Jaycees, Eagle Scout add to growing garden at Georgia Mountain Food Bank
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Packs of zucchini seeds sit out as members of the Gainesville Jaycees prepare garden beds Tuesday night at the Georgia Mountain Food Bank. The Jaycees planted a variety of vegetables this year, including carrots, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn and peppers. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Members of the Gainesville Jaycees turned over dirt, cleared away grass growing in the raised beds and began reading directions and planting seeds in the garden Tuesday at Georgia Mountain Food Bank.

Three new raised beds and three shorter beds are for vegetables, and a higher enclosure helps ensure the vegetables will have a chance to grow rather than be nibbled by deer and other wildlife.

The Jaycees planted the vegetables for the third year — and they have the larger and better garden “plot” because of an Eagle Scout project by a North Gwinnett teenager.

“Typical vegetables” are planted in the garden, said Nick Bruner, who is a Jaycee. He listed squash, tomatoes, corn and peppers. Brinson Cotton, who also is a Jaycee, brought the seeds. He added cucumbers, watermelon and carrots to the list for planting.

Bruner explained the Jaycees come out in the spring, prepare the beds and plant the seeds.

“Every year we’ve built on it,” Kay Blackstock, executive director of the food bank, said Wednesday.

Other volunteers tend the garden during the growing season and harvest the vegetables.

Blackstock said the food bank is seeking volunteers to tend the garden. She said a group — church or company — could take on the project. “We’re looking for a group to do the watering and the weeding and the harvesting,” she said.

Blackstock said a group could have volunteers come two or three days a week to weed and then harvest the vegetables — early in the morning or in the evening.

The garden is beside the food bank’s 22,000-square-foot center.

Walker Greene, 16, sophomore at North Gwinnett High School, started volunteering at the food bank with his father, Rodney, in the summer of 2014, and it sparked an idea for his Eagle project.

“My dad had been volunteering there and wanted me to come see the food bank,” he said.

“My experience impacted me in such a way that when I was picking my Eagle Scout project, the food bank immediately came to mind.”

Greene met with Phil Dennis, the volunteer coordinator and also the scoutmaster for Troop 26, and asked about helping. From that conversation came the garden improvements.

He is a member of Boy Scout Troop 513.

Greene planned the fencing so that it can be moved if the garden were moved.

The new fencing and raised beds were installed March 5 with the help of about 20 volunteers, all recruited by Walker Greene.

“The volunteers were a mix of scouts, friends and family members, as well as one of my dad's colleagues,” he said.

“It took several months to work out exactly how I was going to design the fence, and the fence is 7 1/2 feet tall,” he said.

The garden area now has nine long, raised beds and three shorter ones. Greene added three long ones and the short ones as part of his project.

“The three smaller beds was for possibly taller growing plants such as tomatoes, and also to leave room in the back of the garden for them to plant corn — which they had done in 2015 —  if they wanted to,” Greene said.

The garden’s “main purpose is to serve as an educational tool to teach about food, nutrition and cultivation,” Blackstock said in a press release.

“The garden also provides the opportunity to grow fresh produce for use in agency distribution and (the food bank’s) senior program,” she said.

Blackstock explained the food bank harvested more than 300 pounds from the garden in 2015 — all of which went to the senior feeding program.

With the additional beds, the harvest for 2016 could top 500 pounds, Blackstock said.

“It’s great to have somebody come out … and provide the opportunity to produce that much,” she said. “We’re hoping that somebody sees that as a good opportunity to be engaged.”

Rodney Greene, Walker’s father, owns Lasercraft Technologies at 1233-B Palmour Drive in Gainesville, and he got his employees involved with volunteering at the food bank in the summer of 2013, Blackstock said.

He started the company, which specializes in metal fabrication, in 1996 and it moved to its current facility in 2006.

Blackstock noted the food bank and the company are “neighbors” — separated by Interstate 985.

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