Forces join to grow a garden of pride

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 2, 2009

A small neighborhood is a little greener and prouder this autumn season as a vegetable garden springs up.

Residents of The Initiative, a housing complex on Hope Street, will relish in a fall harvest of mustard greens, lettuce and tomatoes from the garden created by local groups.

The idea to plant a garden at the complex came from the Very Rev. Chan Osborn de Anaya, pastor of Christ Episcopal Church.

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She said she got the idea from Akia Chabot, a permaculture consultant who worked with the City of Vicksburg in the summer of 2008 to install edible landscape, but her first idea, she said, was too big.

“We looked at Rolling Acres,” she said. “We wanted to, possibly, put a fruit tree behind each house, but it was going to be too immense.”

Instead, de Anaya constructed the details of a fall vegetable garden for The Initiative.

Established in 1992, the 13-home complex allows single-parent families or married couples a chance to live at a reduced cost and have child care so parents can continue their education and eventually become independent.

“I wanted to do something here so bad,” Anaya said. “Bringing all the pieces together was my job.”

The Initiative’s program director, Leah Sullivan, said, “This creates for them a knowledge to grow healthy vegetables, which is more healthy for them, and it teaches them about responsibility.”

In June, de Anaya enlisted the help and funds from the Vicksburg Lions Club and the expertise from the Warren County Extension Service Master Gardeners.

The Lions donated $400, which was used to buy tools and seeds. In addition, Faulk’s Garden Shop & Landscaping donated seeds and soil and Gore’s Hardware donated necessary gardening tools.

“I tilled the ground and prepared the soil,” said Dan Hall, Lions member. “Everything else, they did by themselves and it looks really good.”

Master Gardeners volunteered to educate the tenants about the process of gardening.

“Our job was to teach (tenants) how to do it, so they can come out and do it on their own,” said Herschel Hale, Master Gardener.

The agencies then partnered with Sullivan and the only two residents who participated, Kimberly Carr and Sherri Tate, who tended the garden daily.

“It’s been going very well,” said Carr, who lives in a unit with her two children, Kalea, 6, and Kenar, 2. “It’s been raining lately and that helped. The one that amazed me were the greens. They were tiny seeds, and in a week, you could see the greens.”

Carr, 25, hopes to receive her GED at the end of the month. She hopes to continue her education at Hinds Community College to study art or poetry writing, while also working at the onsite nursery.

Sullivan, program director for six years, is hopeful other residents might be interested next year after seeing the garden’s success.

“Seeing is believing,” she said. “Some work in faith by others.”

“We’re all about life,” de Anaya said. “What’s more important than to grow your own. They’re learning on their own.”

The Initiative is funded through the City of Vicksburg, the Warren County Board of Supervisors and the Mississippi Housing and Urban Development office and local benevolent agencies.

“With this program, they’re being educated with life training skills, and that includes money management,” Sullivan said. “We want to teach them to become homeowners, instead of renters.”

Sullivan said since the program’s inception, 151 families have completed the program and become homeowners and, some, business owners.


Contact Manivanh Chanprasith at