In spring of 2014 St. Johnís Vestry approved Martha Zimmermanís proposal to develop a Community Garden to increase the availability of fresh produce for the Martha T. Simmons Food Pantry.
During the first year, the garden volunteers were able to produce over 700 pounds of vegetables. In 2015, production was increased to over 1000 pounds by implementing a Bio Intensive method with 4-foot walkways which would accommodate persons with disabilities. To insure organic efforts, the garden was mulched with leaves and manure to amend the soil during the 2016 winter.
Since the garden began, Ole Turtle Farm has donated organic starter vegetables. At the end of the season, Painterís Greenhouse has donated plants including vegetables, herbs and flowers not only to St. Johnís Garden, but all the community gardens in the region. Bannerís Greenhouse donated flats of cool weather vegetable plants, tomatoes and peppers for a couple of years from their over flow of plants. With these plants, the gardeners were able update the herb garden, moved blueberry bushes and created a lavender bed.
Since 2016, the McDowell Technical Community College GED, English as a Second Language and Adult Basic Education, and Early College students have volunteered in the St. Johnís Community Garden with more than $2000 total scholarships given to college students with significant time in the garden.
In 2016 a garden was added at Brackett Town Farms for radishes, beets, onions, and potatoes. With additional volunteers to dig potatoes, production was increased to over 1200 pounds from both gardens. Any fruits and vegetables not used by the food pantry and non-human consumables are donated to a local pig farmer.
At the end of the season 2017, over a thousand pounds of vegetables were gleaned from Ermaís Produce and LNJ Farms by the St. Johnís Gardeners and given away at the Martha Simmonís Food Pantry. In addition, St. Johnís receives donations from local residentsí personal gardens. In 2017, a Human Hurt and Hope grant from the Diocese funded the blocked crosswalk through the garden, making the garden accessible to many.
In 2019, community gardening memberships were sold to help offset some of the gardening expenses. Similar to the Community Supported Agriculture Model (CSA) 8 memberships were sold. During harvest weeks, two veggie packages were picked up by garden members. The remaining veggies each Friday continue to be given out at the Martha Simmonís Food Pantry. In 2019, thanks to funds from the garden memberships, the garden acquired and installed a permanent watering system.
In 2019, with a gift in memory of Dean Wall, a volunteer in Martha Simmonís Food Pantry, St. Johnís Community Garden hosted our first intern Zoey Laird, a Warren Wilson graduate.
Zoey provided significant help not only by assisting with the installation of the watering system, managing daily watering, working hard in the garden, but also volunteering in the Martha Simmonís Food Pantry.
The 2019 St. Johnís Garden produced more flowers that attract not only bees, but also beautiful butterflies. Two full rows of the garden were taken over by Zinnias which were used in the church, shared at the McDowell Senior Center and all the nursing homes in McDowell County.
Thanks to a gift for the flower garden, in 2020, to regain the gardening space for veggies, the flowers will be moved to the raised bed spaces just east of the garden in the row just above the garden. A walk way will be added to make it easy for gardeners to pick flowers for the church and other functions.
Itís easy to maintain social distance in the garden even considering the COVID 19 virus. Currently volunteers and an intern are being recruited to help make the 2020 year a success.
If interested, contact us: 828-652-4144 or 828-443-1626.