Organizers hope to grow community garden program

Marci Gore • Feb 28, 2013 at 9:17 AM

For the past several years, Kingsport’s Harvest of Hope Community Garden has helped feed the hungry while providing community education in growing healthy foods.

“We started this garden to teach people how to garden, to encourage them to garden, especially raised bed gardening,” said Master Gardener Doug Hilton. “You can grow whatever you need for your family, but we also ask you to please give a portion of it to either the Salvation Army, Kitchen of Hope or Meals on Wheels or some other food pantry in our area.”

The Harvest of Hope: Growing with Kingsport is a community garden developed in 2011 by United Way’s Safety and Stability Vision Council and the Hunger Task Force. It is a joint initiative of United Way of Greater Kingsport and AARP.

Located at 130 W. Charlemont Ave., Kingsport, the garden includes raised beds, some of which are handicap accessible and child-friendly. The garden was established to help feed the hungry while providing community education in growing healthy foods.

Additional partners include First Presbyterian Church, the city of Kingsport, UT Extension Office and the Master Gardeners of East Tennessee.

Participants in the garden are provided assistance with choosing appropriate plants and garden maintenance, and gardeners are asked to provide a portion of their harvest to nonprofit organizations that serve homeless individuals.

The Master Gardner’s Society will conduct a series of workshops and seminars next month to help kick off Harvest of Hope’s third year.

The first event will be held on Saturday, March 9 and will feature two sessions. Session 1 will be held from 10 a.m. to noon and will focus on how to construct a raised bed garden with a demonstration of the best methods to utilize recycled materials. Session 2 will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. and will include a seminar explaining the benefits of planting early spring vegetables. A demonstration of suggested methods of planting these vegetables will also be provided.

There will also be a drawing to give away a raised bed garden. Those eligible for the drawing include participants who attend both sessions on March 9.

On Tuesday, March 12 and Thursday, March 21 Harvest of Hope Community Garden will join with Keep Kingsport Beautiful and local school teachers to demonstrate the usefulness of school and community gardens.

Kandy Childress is the director of community impact and communications for the United Way of Greater Kingsport and says Harvest of Hope is designed to supplement the food pantries in our area.

“Food pantries are different than food banks. We only have one food bank in the area and that’s Second Harvest. Food pantries are mainly run out of churches. The Harvest of Hope Community Garden became a way to help solve the issue of food insecurity in our area,” Childress said.

Childress points out that Harvest of Hope has evolved over time.

“Initially, it was to allow community members, who didn’t have enough food to eat, to give them a place to raise their own fresh vegetables. We know that most people who have food insecurities are not eating a nutritionally balanced diet,” she said. “But now what we see are people in the community, who have an interest in learning how to grow fresh vegetables and who have a charitable heart, growing fresh vegetables and sharing what they raise. They are actually taking that food to places like the Salvation Army and the Kitchen of Hope and to other places that serve congregate meals. These places will use that food as they’re preparing meals for community members who don’t have enough food to eat.”

For some of the gardeners, participation in Harvest of Hope has become a family affair.

“Many of our gardeners are bringing their children with them and the kids are learning valuable lessons about growing food, about nutrition and about giving back to the community,” Childress said.

Currently, Harvest of Hope is the only community garden of its kind in Kingsport, but Hilton says plans are in the works to change that.

“We’re in the process of working with parks and recreation to maybe do some raised bed gardens at the Lynn Garden Community Center. We’re also looking at developing one where the old Douglass High School used to be. We’d love to be able to get three or four gardens started in other places in Kingsport,” he said. “We’d love to cover about every area in Kingsport. So many people don’t know how to garden.”

For more information about Harvest of Hope or to find out how you can get involved, visit the garden blog at www.hohkingsport.blogspot.com   or the United Way of Greater Kingsport’s website at www.uwaykpt.org.

For a complete list of food pantries in the area that may benefit from Harvest of Hope, visit www.feedkingsport.org

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