City finalizing community garden plans

Published 11:30 am Friday, May 16, 2014

City officials, representatives of Shape Up Mississippi and Alcorn State University officials mark the spot where a community garden is planned at Vicksburg Municipal Airport.

City officials, representatives of Shape Up Mississippi and Alcorn State University officials mark the spot where a community garden is planned at Vicksburg Municipal Airport.

When Linda Fondren looks across the six acres on the Vicksburg Municipal Airport property designated for the city’s community garden, she sees beyond the lot’s grassy cover and into the future.

“I see orchards, flowers, park benches and people working in the gardens and beds, growing their own food,” she said Thursday as she met with city officials and Alcorn State representatives to go over plans for the site.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen on May 9 approved an agreement with Alcorn State University and Shape Up Mississippi to put the garden on the tract situated just to the northeast of the airport on U.S. 61 South.

Linda Fondren

Linda Fondren

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Fondren, the founder of Shape Up Mississippi and a proponent of the garden, said a crew from Alcorn should be on the site in about two weeks to begin turning the ground in preparation for the garden. The goal of the project, she said, is to bring the community together.

The garden is a joint effort between the city, Shape Up Mississippi and Alcorn State to promote healthy lifestyles, which include exercise and healthy eating.

“The garden is part of the university’s “Power of Three Program” that promotes health and wellness, starting with a community garden, programs on nutrition and food preparation and exercise — how to properly burn off calories, said Ralph Arrington, ASU community garden coordinator who is in charge of the garden’s design. He said plans for the garden are being completed and include a park with traditional garden, planters, an orchard and a walking track.

Besides growing vegetables and fruit, Mattie Rasco, ASU nutrition and health specialist, said the garden would be the site of weekly classes on healthy eating and food preparation.

“We’ll emphasize food safety — washing hands and carefully washing vegetables and fruit before preparing them,” she said. “People in America have too much salt, and sugar and fat in their diet. One of the complaints we receive is, ‘It’s expensive to eat healthy.’ We’ll hold cooking classes to show people how to eat healthy and do it inexpensively.”

Once ready for planting, the garden will be open for volunteers to begin work. Fondren said choice of produce that will be planted will be up to the community; the people working in the garden.

North Ward Aldermen Michael Mayfield believes the garden will get a good response, added the project will begin slowly, but will gain momentum.

“It will be slow, but once you establish it and keep it going, it will get the attention of people,” he said. “I’m looking forward to see the end result out here. We need to get the young people out here. Once they get out here and do some work and get a little dirt on their hands, I think they’ll enjoy it.”

“We’re ready to start rolling,” Fondren said. “We’ve got a good group together; you can’t beat this team.”

She looked toward the west end of the field and saw an apparently unused airplane hangar at the northeast corner of the airport. “Is there anything in that hangar?” she asked South Ward Alderman Willis Thompson. “It might be useful.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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