It’s almost harvest time at Community Garden

Published 9:37 pm Friday, April 21, 2017

It is nearly time to harvest at the Vicksburg Community Garden with the latest crop of onions, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, and herbs among the plants that are ready to be picked.

Plants grown in the garden, which is located on U.S. 61, are donated to businesses and families in need. The garden will soon start donating to the Storehouse Community Pantry, which has helped more than 4,000 people a year for the last 14 years, as well.

“We are working with Up in Farms Food Hub, an organization that functions as a liaison between farms and businesses, to help coordinate supply and demand, enabling us to grow with the assurance that our crops will be purchased by local businesses,” Linda Fondren, who helped found the garden, said.

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The garden grows a variety of plants including peas, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkins and a variety of greens. They also have a variety of fruit tress and grow muscadine grapes.

This summer they will be planting sugar cane and a hybrid plant they are dubbing “ketchup and French fries” that produces tomatoes and potatoes.

“The goal is to teach the community how to grow and cook healthy foods as well as provide an opportunity to get people outside and connected with their environment,” Fondren said.

As part of their education efforts, they recently started a hydroponic growing system for herbs, lettuce and tomatoes.

“Hydroponics is the science of growing plants in nutrient-rich water and a learning project for us,” Fondren said. “Does it work? With the help of experts, we are going to try and see for ourselves.”

A combination of volunteer groups, students, farmers and paid employees tend the garden. They have also partnered with the Warren County Youth Detention Center to provide kids an educational alternative to their traditional community service options.

“The project has now morphed into individualized projects; each child chooses a vegetable previously unknown to him or her, learns about it and how to tend to it,” Fondren said. “They take photos and make a presentation to their detention officer, principal and teacher that includes creating a recipe from the vegetable.”

Master Gardener and coordinator Karen Frederick said that this summer kids will be building a green house out of old soda bottles and staring a composting pile.

The addition of new programs and new plants is part of the garden’s goal to become a center for education. They have also started working on developing healthy eating habits and promoting fitness by adding a walking trail and exercise equipment to the garden’s six acres.

“Existing and future plans include creating a community garden that is a great place for socializing, for people to become role models, a place of safety and to engage in a joint activity,” Fondren said. “The community garden will be a great place to learn how to transform ugly vacant lots into green spaces by planting a neighborhood garden.”

They are also planning a farmers’ market, classes on nutrition and a fall festival. If you are interested in getting involved with the garden, Fondren said the best way is simply to come to the garden.

“You will find Karen Frederick at the garden almost daily planting seeds of friendship throughout the garden,” Fondren said. “She had a sign on the tree telling you to ring the bell for assistance. If  she does not answer, she has a message  for you to pull weeds.”