• Volunteers took time to plant Community Gardens at three sites administered by the Atlanta Property Management organization. The project is part of The Growing and Nourishing Healthy Communities Garden Course which is partially funded by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Local Volunteers Help Plant Community Gardens at Three Atlanta Property Management Sites

Cass County Master Gardeners and Master Wellness Volunteers came together on May 7, a warm, sunny Spring morning, to help start Community Gardens at three sites administered by the Atlanta Property Management organization in Atlanta. The Growing and Nourishing Healthy Communities Garden Course, which is funded, in part, by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), helps increase the availability of fresh produce though teaching participants how to grow fruits and vegetables in community and backyard gardens. The gardening series includes topics such as how to select the right garden location, planting and watering techniques, controlling insects, and composting. By incorporating cooking demonstrations using the produce grown, participants learn how to prepare the produce they harvest.
Earlier this year, Cass County AgriLife Extension Agent Michelle Valentin, approached the Master Gardeners with the idea of conducting the program in our area, and so under the direction of Master Gardeners’ President Debbie Jones, Secretary Kathrine Morgan and Program Coordinator Darla Anderson, and other volunteers, the raised beds were filled with healthy soil and plants for the purpose of helping the residents of Sunset Terrace, Trinity Crossing and Ashford Place have access to fresh vegetables. While the volunteers did the lion’s share of the work to get the gardens off to a good start, it will be the responsibility of the residents at each site to see that the gardens are cared for, including watering, weeding, maintenance and harvest.
The residents will have the opportunity to help each other tend to the gardens and thereby gain a sense of ownership and responsibility to care for and nurture the plants and enjoy the bounty of the harvest later this summer.
Master Gardeners and Master Wellness Volunteers will provide follow-up programs on gardening and also on how to cook what is grown in the gardens, along with other healthy recipes and ideas from the Community and Family Health program through the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Once the raised beds were filled with healthy soil, plants such as tomatoes, peppers, squash and flowers were added along with a good dose of fertilizer and water.  “Why plant flowers?” resident Tonya James asked.  “Marigolds are especially good at providing non-chemical pest control for these particular types of vegetables,” replied Ms. Valentin. Ms. James felt proud that she had just ‘learned something new’ that day.
Stacia J. Waters, Executive Director of Atlanta Property Management, was quite pleased with the project.
 “I am very grateful for the teamwork created through the AgriLife Extension programs and I hope our residents will embrace the opportunities provided here for fellowship, fun and learning through gardening,” she said.  “Through this program, residents can improve their nutrition levels, attend cooking classes, get more fresh air and sunshine and improve their quality of life in so many ways. I hope they will embrace this idea and take ownership of the community gardens that have been provided for them.”
All residents at each of the three sites were given informational fliers prior to “planting day” inviting them to come out to learn about the program and decide how they could contribute to the success of the Community Garden at their respective site.  Many did come out to see what all the excitement was about and everyone had very positive reactions. Resident Nancy Combs brought her little footstool along so she could sit beside the beds while working the soil.  Nancy said, “I love it! It’s amazing and I will be out here watering the plants!” Resident Frank Jackson came prepared to help – he brought his own watering can and was so excited about the program that he started making plans for future gardens with more space and more variety. Frank said he would “…definitely be helping!”  Sunset Terrace resident Beth Williams said, “This community is our home and we want to try to make it pretty – so this garden will surely add to the natural beauty here.”
Resident Gail Crocker has a bad leg, so she’s not sure how much she can do to help, but she planned to get outside more when doing her walking therapy just so she can “go by and look at the garden and see what’s growing.”
Atlanta Property Management Maintenance Supervisor Kendall Collier was helping out by supplying water hoses to the beds.  He said, “You know, these folks are mostly Seniors and a lot of them can’t get out to buy lots of fresh produce, so these gardens will be very helpful to them. And, it will give them a chance to be a little more active and have something to care for and look forward to each day.”
Residents were encouraged to get their kids and grandkids to come help take care of the gardens.  It is through such programs as this that gardening knowledge, skills and abilities can be passed along to new generations and the circle of life will continue to build strong families and healthy individuals. 

 For more information, contact Michelle Valentin at michelle.valentin@ag.tamu.edu or call her at 903-756-5391.
 

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Atlanta Citizens Journal
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