2017 Giles Community Garden Report
2017 Giles Community Garden Report A Partnership of Christ Episcopal Church & The Giles Breakfast Lions Club
The 2017 season, our third full year, is best summed up in one word: Growth.
This growth took place in the garden, program, grants, gifts and partnerships. We enter 2018 with great hopes for the future of the Giles Community Garden. All these blessings will be reported upon simultaneously.
In 2017 our partnership with the VT Extension deepened early with free use of a commercial seed starting system. We successfully started hundreds of seeds that developed well, into vegetables and flowers that were spread among the VT Extension Office; the Virginia Department of Health Farmacy Gardens in Christiansburg, Floyd, and Pulaski; given to our partner food distributors; and were the base plants used to start a community garden project in a local senior apartment complex. They were also traded for other plants and seedlings with like-minded gardeners and programs. We learned the value of timing and rapid growth cycles with this very efficient system.
In the 2017 Annual Report for New River Community Action our partnership with the two (2) Head Start programs was recognized for our “educating the children and parents about the benefits of healthy food and fitness.” We “brought the garden experience into the classrooms… and taught the children about healthy food choices and gave them the opportunity to grow plants from seed and transplant them into the garden. Head Start families collected the harvest from the garden as the plants grew to full maturity.” This year as part of our Annual See-to-Fork Program we will again have the assistance of the 3, 4 and 5 year olds to place the seeds into their planting medium. Once the seeds are planted we will bring the seed trays to the VT Extension office to develop, and then let the cycle continue. Our Lion volunteers also brought “Animal Yoga” and “taught children and staff how to breathe calmly, how to quiet the mind, about balance, and how to take care of their bodies.” Participation in these healthy activities “support the development of the whole child”. Working with these children is a win-win for all involved and a true blessing.
In late 2016 we applied for a $400.00 grant from the Master Gardener Program. That grant was awarded and was received in 2017. This money was used for the purchase of block and mortar to build two (2) ADA approved, handicapped accessible raised beds. The beds were completed and planted with fall crops by late summer by children from our partnership with the Family Preservation Services Summer Program. We also recently received word that our grant request of $300.00 from the Master Gardner Program for 2017 was approved to purchase the needed material for the foundation of our small greenhouse. This greenhouse is a gift from the Virginia Department of Health valued is at over $2,000.00. We have approval of Vestry of Christ Episcopal Church where Giles Community Garden is located as well as from the Town Of Pearisburg for the greenhouse’s location. The construction of the greenhouse will begin this spring.
Our grant blessings continued with a $1,500.00 grant from the VT Food & Nutrition Department. This grant piece was a part of block grant that was split up between our partner the Farmacy Garden Programs with the VDH. We used these funds to purchase; soil enhancements, children’s sized garden tools, gloves, and wheelbarrows. It also all helped enhance our Seed-To-Fork Program with “Root View” boxes for our Head Start gardeners. Obviously we are grateful and blessed for our deep and ongoing partnerships with the VT Extension Programs and the Virginia Department of Health.
Our partnership with the Family Preservation Services group continues to grow well and deepen with age. This year’s summer program included the addition of a nutritional component where the kids learned about the importance and need for good nutrition, proper hydration, and food varieties. This year we are working on a collaborative effort that will be grant- funded to expand the program. The intent is to add a second day, and to include breakfast with simple cooking classes. We would also continue to expand the nutritional education. The VT Extension Program and the 4-H Program are also very interested in bringing their Summer Programs to the garden. The plan would include both the nutrition education and the breakfast components.
The food distribution program grew in depth and breath. Starting with our current partners: The VDH – WIC Program, Giles County Social Services, The Giles Christian Mission, and The Giles Senior Center; we have added the Giles Health and Wellness Center. We are excited about our new partner because besides having another outlet to deliver food, they bring Super Senior voluntolds who have come to the garden and picked their own. We are also very proud of the ongoing positive developments through the Giles Christian Mission. The Mission persevered in 2017 and opened a Community Food Bank. They are also now partnered with New River Community Action and have pooled their collective information and client bases. This community project and partnership will be a great benefit to our community and the garden by helping us reach farther into our local neighborhood and reaching out to our target population.
We are also very proud to announce our newest partnership: The Giles County ACCE Program. Through the ACCE Program Giles High School and Narrows High School graduates are able to continue FREE, education at New River Community College in return for some heart felt community service. We are blessed this year to have a student intern in the garden whose primary mission is helping us meet, greet and feed our neighbors. This will be a multifaceted educational experience that will include hands on garden experience, survey writing and implementation, community building and making a bunch of new friends.
One of our warmest growth area’s came through inclusion of more warm bodies from the community, parish, Lions Club and the County Inmate Work Program. Six inmates in this program spent an early-summer day helping building the tomato trellis, putting in fence posts, tilling soil and building the second raised bed. It took another community volunteer and me almost two weeks to build the first raised bed so obviously the hard work these men put in is greatly appreciated. Another brave community volunteer actually helped bring me into the 21st Century and encourage me to join Facebook personally and with the Giles Community Garden. Please like our pages.
Grace comes in all shapes, sizes and places of origin. I have fortunately and finally learned to recognize when it smacks me in the head. At the end of the FPS Summer program one of their councilors asked me who was going to continue all the work that the Summer Program Kids had accomplished. I recognized my small group of volunteers and myself. She mentioned that her husband is a Mr. Mom for their 4 and 7 year old boys in need of something else to do. Wes Comer has become my go-to-guy, left and right hands, jack-of-all trades and new bff, and prospective Lion. Wes brings an open mind, great work ethic, wonderful spirit and an infectious can do attitude. Add that to two little boys who love to play in the dirt and sometimes help, in short you define – GRACE!
The garden was also privileged and honored to be included early in a broad conversation developed and managed, to this point, by the Community Foundation of the NRV. The Food Access Network now has 94 different community organizations throughout the NRV that are targeting Food Access. These network organizations are currently being surveyed for their connectedness, knowledge about each other, and how and where we can share resources. We are focused on how our collective effort can help get food to the food insecure in a most dignified manner. Collaboration on this major scale to help humanity is a wonderfully humbling experience.
One of our partnerships that came from the Food Access Network is with the Glean Team. This hearty group harvests fresh food from commercial and individual farms and gardens and distributes it throughout the NRV community. This single connection was responsible for bringing thousands of pounds of food to our Giles County distribution partners. Through the Glean Team our garden will be picking up 1000 pounds of potatoes in the Glean Team Annual Potato Drop in January. These taters will go a long way to help feed a lot on people in the middle of winter.
We also developed a partnership with Community Housing Partners of Christiansburg. This link came through our ongoing work in the FOCUS program managed by Giles County. Our project is centered at Old Orchard Grove Apartments in Pearisburg. These apartments are designed for and filled with senior citizens, some of whom are physically challenged. In this collaborative effort with the FOCUS program and with the assistance. again, of the County Inmate Work Program construction crew we had four waist high raised beds built from wood. They were strategically placed between the apartment buildings and planted with plants grown by our garden volunteers. The goals in May were to get the neighbors to work together to tend to these small beds, harvest food and to develop a stronger sense of community. Through the magic of dirt all three were accomplished. There are plans to continue this collaboration in 2018.
The Giles Community Garden is self-serve and delivery, help yourself and your neighbor kind of place. To this point in time our Mid-Night Gardeners and distribution partners have done a pretty good job of keeping up with our ongoing harvest of fresh veggies. Our goal moving forward is to try and keep up with the number of pounds of food being distributed by scales and bushel baskets. With this in mind, here is a partial list and our best ideas, some measured some not, of how much food we produced this year: 3 bushels green beans, 2 bushels of pole beans, 4-6 bushels of a variety of peppers, 2 dozen cabbage, 50+ pounds of a variety of greens and Swiss chard, hundreds of pounds of maters, 100 pounds of sweet taters, and a TON of SMILES from all who ate from, worked in, or had anything to do with this 1600 sq. ft. garden plus the two (2) raised beds.
This little project has truly turned into a labor of love. I am humbled, honored and privileged to be a part of this humanitarian work. It is truly amazing to me what playing in the dirt with some friends can accomplish. Thank you to all our advisors, councilors, partners, volunteers, “voluntolds”, Giles County, the Town of Pearisburg and anyone I missed.
Thank you finally to all our Friends of Dirt who without their support none of this would be possible. This year saw the demise of the GCG News Post because I took the mighty leap to the internet/Facebook. I have only scratched the surface of social media and welcome anyone that would like to jump in and help. This year we plan to keep up with all our Friends of Dirt through the Giles Community Garden Facebook page, so please like us on Facebook. Thank you, all ya’ll.
Gratefully submitted, Lion Charlie Herbert, the gardener