Planting the seeds of community

By Melonie Flomer

April 25, 2014

ROCKINGHAM — Spring fever has reached epidemic levels in Richmond County. People are spring cleaning, mowing their yards and decorating their home landscapes with colorful flowers. But some residents have bigger plans for planting this season.

Susan Kelly, director of the Richmond County Center of the N.C. Cooperative Extension, expressed enthusiasm over the response to a community gardening program that launches today at Hitchcock Creek.

The series of garden-side talks is aimed at educating the public about growing their own food in small spaces. With a $3,100 grant from Nourishing North Carolina of the North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, extension staff and volunteers were able to build 20 raised-bed garden plots at 615 Steele St. The garden is located beside the parking area at the access point to the Hitchcock Creek walking trail.

“We originally planned to start last Saturday,” she said. “We were rained out but will be filling the beds (today). The grant stipulates that 10 percent of the produce goes to food banks. The rest will be the property of the individuals renting the beds.”

All but two of the 20 plots built by volunteers have been rented for the year at a cost of $10. Tools are also available for rent for those who don’t have their own. Tool rental is optional and costs an additional $20 per year.

The Rev. Jim Nelson of First Baptist Church of Rockingham was on hand Friday with other volunteers from the church, sawing and hammering lumber into garden bed frames under the early heat of the late morning sun.

“The city asked Dennis (Holloway) if we could build ramps,” Nelson said. “We build ramps to assist people with wheelchairs, mainly at their homes. This time, (Mayor) Steve (Morris) asked us about building the vegetable beds, and here we are.”

Other volunteers from the community have helped on different days, including AMVETS, churches and Civitan members, Nelson said.

Loucretia Sellars moved to the community in September and was an early adopter of a garden bed.

“I’ve been organic juicing and blending every day,” she said. “When I lived in Texas I grew my own organic vegetables in containers. When I moved to North Carolina, the place I lived had nothing but shade and I began to ask around to find out if there was a community garden. I wanted to start my own. Then one day I visited the health department and saw a flyer hanging there about this community garden so I signed up.”

Kelly said that with all the work to be done, starting the informal classes will be a challenge.

“But I am teaching them all garden-side, almost in a question and answer demonstration format,” she said.

The classes are open to all who are interested in learning more about raised bed vegetable gardening. The next class takes place Thursday at 5 p.m., and is titled “What Plants Want — The Basics.”

For more information, call Kelly at 910-997-8255.