Community garden yields produce for nonprofits
by Ciera Choate
Almost a year after receiving a $3,000 grant to expand the Matthews Community Garden, green-thumbed residents who work the land have donated much of their produce to the nonprofits Matthews HELP Center and Friendship Trays.
The grant, which added eight new plots to the garden and fencing, was part of the Nourishing North Carolina program.
“So far, Nourishing North Carolina gardens have donated more than two tons of produce to food shelter and rescue organizations across the state. In addition, the gardens have also offered hundreds of hours of physical activity to community volunteers as well,” Darcie Dearth, of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina said.
The insurance company partnered with the North Carolina Recreation and Park Association last year to create the Nourishing North Carolina program to benefit or help create community gardens in all 100 North Carolina counties by the end of 2013. In May, the organization announced the next 23 gardens to receive a grant and so far have helped about 55 gardens in 41 counties across North Carolina, she said.
“Community gardens are just one targeted and impactful way to address health issues across North Carolina, so this is an important effort that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina strongly supports,” Dearth said.
The Matthews Community Garden, which opened in 2007, does not coordinate the donations their members make throughout the community. Instead, individual plot owners take the produce from their plots to the nonprofit organizations, most of which goes to the food pantry at the Matthews HELP Center or Friendship Trays, which uses a team of volunteers to deliver meals to area residents in need. The garden at 427 Covenant Church Lane now has 31 plots, which are all full with four people on the waiting list, according to Plot Manager Sherri Madden.
Before receiving the grant the garden only had 23 plots. For those working at the garden, they feel the importance is how it gives families living in apartments or housing where gardening conditions are not prime a chance to have fresh, self-grown food. It also gives an aspect of community the people of Matthews can’t find anywhere else, Madden said.
“It just brings people together that you normally wouldn’t run across in this town. It’s a fun way to make friendships and it’s nice for people to see when they pass by,” she said.
Growing produce at the gardens is also a cheaper way to get fresh produce. All plots, regardless of the size, cost $25 per year, $10 for the plot and $15 for water. Plots come in 10-by-20 or 10-by-12 sizes.
Want to know more?
For more information about the Matthews Community Garden call Sherri Madden at 704-771-9949.