Around the state, MGEVs have found valuable ways to benefit members of their communities through horticulture venues. One of those valuable ways is community and demonstration gardens that provide a place of education, a source of produce, and a welcoming area for children and adults to gather. The Healthy Life Community Garden in Spalding County and the Learning for Life Garden in Forsyth County are two such examples.
Located just outside of the Forsyth County Extension offices, the Learning for Life (LFL) Garden serves as an educational space for the community. It was started in 2010 by MGEVs and has been funded by their annual spring plant sales. Visitors can come to the garden year-round and are always able to see something different going on in the garden. Several options for growing vegetables can be observed in the raised beds, along with various drip irrigation systems, and examples of vertical gardening. The garden also demonstrates companion planting, square-foot gardening, crop rotation, and low hoop houses. Produce from the garden is donated to a local boys’ shelter and local food banks.
Extension agents offer public classes that include hands-on learning in the garden, and MGEVs have been instrumental in installing the garden and maintaining the space as an education and demonstration garden. By visiting the garden, attending classes, and learning from the signage at each raised bed, visitors gain many ideas and techniques to put to use in their own vegetable gardens.
Located at the old Fairmont High School, the Healthy Life Community Garden (HLCG) is a major positive asset to Spalding County. HLCG began with intent to provide healthy food options to residents of Griffin, Georgia, who were living in an identified food desert with little access to fresh, healthy foods and gardening. In 2013, community leaders from Griffin Housing Authority, UGA Griffin, Spalding County, and the City of Griffin came together to address the needs of the neighborhoods in Fairmont, a high-risk community in Spalding County. A community garden was proposed as beneficial to the community. MGEVs and the community came together to demolish an old school and create a functional garden that serves the community.
All residents in the area of the garden, as well as Spalding County in general, are welcome to grow vegetables in the garden by working one of the twenty-one individual raised beds and/or participating in the 12,000 square foot community area.
There are numerous benefits from this garden. Many people who have little gardening skills or have not have interaction with UGA Extension have been reached and now know of this resource. MGEVs have been able to put into practice what they learned in their classes. Volunteering with the garden has created an awareness of the economic disparity in the community and knowledge of the existence of a food desert in the area. Children’s programs, such as Junior Master Gardener programs, summer reading programs, and special events, like Halloween and Spring Fling, offer social gatherings at the garden throughout the year.
The gardens have been a labor of love, bringing together people from all parts of society for the common goal of improving the wellbeing of the community. From the expertise shared by MGEVs to the children in the neighborhood learning and playing in the garden, a positive impact has been on the community.
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