Picking season has begun at the Jubilee Farm community garden in Gainesville.
Volunteers said on Wednesday, July 17, that they expect to produce about two tons of yellow squash, tomatoes, peppers, beans, peas, cucumbers, okra, Irish and sweet potatoes, eggplant, collards, cabbage and other produce by the fall.
The food is donated to local homeless missions, food banks and nonprofits to serve individuals and families in need, including Good News Clinics, The Way day mission, Set Free Ministries, Angel House, My Sister’s Place, Georgia Mountain Food Bank, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and Good Samaritan Ministries of Northeast Georgia.
“There’s a lot of people working hard to get out of poverty,” said Barbara Foxhall, president of Jubilee Farm.
In 2018, Jubilee Farm produced 3,340 pounds of produce, according to volunteer Robert Cuttino, who tracks and tabulates numbers for the community garden.
That haul was a product of work from 70 volunteers and 1,517 hours of toil in the soil, Cuttino added.
Jubilee Farm has been frequently uprooted since local resident Frank Armstrong pioneered the idea of a community garden in Gainesville in 2014. He envisioned a nonprofit that would teach gardening courses, provide nutritional education to the community and offer food to the hungry.
Armstrong died this past spring, but he was able to see Jubilee finally plant roots in a location where it’s likely to remain for years to come.
The community garden was initially proposed for a brownfield site as a way to “green” the land, but the first plantings were ultimately made at the corner of Davis and Pine streets in the midtown industrial area of Gainesville.
In 2017, plans were in the works to move the garden to a larger location off Oak Street between the United Way of Hall County and Rochester & Associates Inc., but the sloping topography and confusion about where property lines existed prompted a continued search.
Finally, Jubilee sprouted again on the campus of First Baptist Church at 751 Green St. in Gainesville.
“We were fortunate this land was here,” said Danny Askew, a master gardener.
The land provided everything Jubilee needed – larger space, an irrigation system and a nominal rental fee.
It also received support from several community partners, including a grant for a storage shed from the North Georgia Community Foundation and financial support from other churches.
Jubilee also benefits from city street sweeping collections by collecting leaf mulch to lay between rows of crops, which keeps weeds from growing, and insects and ants away.
It also makes for good compost to enrich the soil in the winter off-season.
The fellowship and camaraderie among frequent volunteers is “a major component,” Cuttino said, that keeps everyone energized and returning two mornings each week.
But there’s always room for more.
Dr. “Buddy” Langston, who was picking vegetables off the vine on Wednesday morning, said he hopes support for the garden will “reach wider into the community.”
Jubilee gives back in other ways, too.
For example, the community garden will host another ladybug release this August with preschool students from First Baptist. The ladybugs are natural insect killers, Foxhall said, and the event is a great way to get kids interested in gardening.
It’s been “a learning experience” each year, Foxhall said.
But that’s also what keeps things interesting at Jubilee. And growing.
Volunteers are planning to harvest the first fruit at the garden this fall, including cantaloupe and watermelon.
“The sky’s the limit,” Foxhall said.
How you can help
Needs: Volunteers, board members, food delivery and financial support.
When: Gardening work begins at 8 a.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays
Location: First Baptist Church, 751 Green St., Gainesville
More info: 334-546-8837 or email firstname.lastname@example.org