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Hope Community Garden takes root
Adele Street lot is transformed by churches, residents
Members of Starling Avenue Baptist Church, neighbors and others plant squash at the Hope Community Garden, built on a former parking lot the church owns on Adele Street in Martinsville. Pictured are Richard Caldwell and Dawn Taylor (kneeling, from left), David Elliott (standing) and Toni Tollison. (Bulletin photos by Kim Barto)
Sunday, May 24, 2009
By KIM BARTO - Bulletin Staff Writer
Church members and neighbors are working together to grow food for the needy in a former parking lot on Adele Street.
Before the project started, weeds were the only things growing in the empty gravel lot owned by Starling Avenue Baptist Church. Then, several months ago, an idea from the church's pastor, the Rev. David Adkins, led the church to build garden beds on top of the gravel, transforming the site into the Hope Community Garden.
St. Joseph's Catholic Church and nearby residents also have planted beds on the lot.
"The community gardens do several things: They get people outdoors, they enable neighbors to meet one another, and you put fresh, organically grown food on the table," Adkins said. "We're hoping to create community as well as provide an opportunity for people to meet some of their food needs recreationally."�
The project started when Adkins suggested growing fresh produce to donate to Grace Network, said church member Dawn Taylor, who has been coordinating the gardening efforts.
"The response has been fairly good," Taylor said. "It's just a matter of taking baby steps."�
Though she tends a garden at home, that doesn't stop Taylor from finding time to work in the church's plot, as well.
"I like knowing that what I'm doing is going to help somebody else. I get to work with a group of people at the church who are in it for the same reasons," she said.
Participants from Starling Avenue Baptist meet every Saturday morning to tend their garden bed. So far, they have planted green beans, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and peppers, and potatoes are next on the list.
"Next year, we're hoping to get an earlier start" and plant more spring vegetables, said church member and avid gardener Toni Tollison.
And how do the gardeners keep pests away from their organically grown produce?
"We pray," Tollison said with a laugh.
David Elliott got involved in the garden because he lives down the street from the site and knows Adkins.
Elliott said he tried for six years to plant a garden at his house, but his yard is too shady for growing vegetables. His plot in the community garden, on the other hand, gets full sunlight.
"I think it's great. It's convenient for me," he said of the garden.
Elliott keeps the lot mowed in addition to taking care of his bed, where he recently planted tomatoes, squash and zucchini.
Taylor said the Hope Community Garden is open to "anyone in Martinsville that would like to have a place to grow vegetables or flowers, meet other people and share the love of gardening with them."�
Starling Avenue Baptist plans to build more beds as funds and donations of materials allow, she said. The current three beds, built from cinder blocks and soil, range in size from 10 feet long to 25 feet long.
"We have the room to have a large amount of beds," Taylor said. "We understand that's going to take some time, and that's fine, because we want to do it the right way."�
Soil and access to water will be provided to community participants, but from there, "it's up to the people to take care of the beds that they have and to grow what they want," she said.
If people are not experienced in gardening, Taylor added, "We can give them some instruction if they need it. Growing from seeds is really easy."�
Taylor said organizers have been talking to the YMCA about setting aside space for children in the summer programs to plant a garden and "have something to do outside."�
Also, she said, the group hopes to eventually use the Hope Community Garden to hold seminars on gardening and cooking produce. The church is working on creating a logo and sign for the garden.
"We'd like to have some picnic tables out there and have some shade trees ... just an area where everyone can come and relax," Taylor said.
For more information about getting involved with the Hope Community Garden, e-mail Taylor at email@example.com.