AUBURN, Ala.— There are immeasurable benefits to having community gardens. Fresh and locally grown produce becomes available to those in the local area.
Regional Extension Agent Bethany O’Rear, said there is also a sense of camaraderie that is established among the volunteers in the community. The garden can be used as a learning tool for adults and children to gain hands-on experience of where food comes from.
Two Types of Community Gardens
Auburn is home to two types of community gardens. The community garden located on West Samford Avenue, just past Wire Road has plots of land that can be rented to individuals. The renter must maintain and tend to these spots. For more information, contact Ms. Lynsey Horne, garden manager, at email@example.com.
Another type of community garden is located on Woodfield Drive. This space is over ¼ acre and all of the food grown here goes directly to the local food bank. Once the food is ready, volunteers fill baskets from the food bank with everything that has successfully grown in the garden. This location was able to give 8,000 pounds of food last summer.
A major challenge to maintaining this garden is getting consistent volunteers. “It’s fun to have volunteers because we can teach them how and why we do what we do,” said Auburn University horticulture undergraduate student Evie Smith. She explained that anyone can help and the horticulture department appreciate when volunteers are regular.
“A poorly cared for community garden is worse than no garden at all,” O’Rear said. “Planning is more important than planting.”
The developmental process begins with determining who owns the property. Then, a committee must acknowledge an accessible water source and ensure proper funding. “Water source is always a huge consideration – in fact in most cases, is a deal breaker,” O’Rear said. “If there is no reliable source of water on or near the property, then the best plans will never come to fruition.”
Next, the committee determines who will coordinate volunteers, manage the garden and set up volunteers.
The Woodfield Drive community garden process begins in the greenhouse. This is where they prep the seeds and then the plants are transported to the garden. The garden thrives in two seasons with winter and summer crops. However, maintaining the garden is a year-round job. The time of year determines how often volunteers are needed to fertilize and tend to the plants.
“What one person does (in the community garden) affects other people’s garden,” Smith said. “If no one volunteers, it defeats the morale of everyone. You have to commit to it.”