Sustainable Garden Brings Community Together

The success of the initial meeting led to many more meetings and training seminars which became part of the Entrepreneur Academy at the Small Business Center. These seminars, led by Cooperative Extension Agricultural agents, educated and supported those who wished to build their own gardens for personal use or sales. One organization who wished to become involved was Monarch, a nonprofit who provides support and resources to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illness, and substance abuse issues. Monarch offered their existing garden beds and greenhouse dome to facilitate a sustainable garden project which could be shared by a group. This option provided a beneficial situation for all involved as it not only meant that the garden project had a home, but that Monarch could now offer additional life skills to their participants. A project such as this had many benefits for Monarch participants like self-esteem building, social integration within the community, and the chance to use gardening as a form of therapy. Their involvement also supported the NC Eat Smart, Move More health promotion 2010 goals which encourage changing the environment to promote physical activity and increased consumption of fruits and veggies.

Year one was met with marked success as community volunteers and Monarch participants prepared, planted, watered, weeded, and harvested a bountiful crop of tomatoes, peppers, beans, herbs and more last summer. When the harvest was complete, the team joined together for a delicious fall harvest celebratory dinner prepared and hosted by the Monarch family. The benefits to the folks supported by Monarch were obvious. But, those who were not previously connected to Monarch experienced benefits beyond the scope of the garden itself with a greater appreciation and understanding of the people supported by Monarch. Many have already stepped up to be part of the 2010 project and are bringing along friends and family for the experience. “I got involved to learn about sustainable gardening for my own personal needs. I not only learned a great deal about how to start, grow and harvest a garden, I made new friends, and met incredible people I might never have had the opportunity to meet.” Raymond Simmons, volunteer.

None of this would have been possible without the generous support and donations of volunteers, plants, seeds, soil, compost and garden tools and supplies. Carolina East Medical Center has provided a generous donation to help fund the 2010 garden expansion. Plans are underway to work on garden prep and to repair and refurbish existing garden boxes which surround a unique domed “greenhouse” (designed by renowned architect Buckminster Fuller) which will be restored to function as a four season building. The team plans to meet at Monarch on January 13th to confirm plans for 2010.

For those interested in getting involved or learning more about the Sustainable Garden Project, please attend a free orientation seminar at the Small Business Center on January 20th from 9am-11am, in Barker Hall, room 109 (Building A) on the New Bern Campus of Craven Community College. Everyone is welcome – just call ahead to the Small Business Center at 252.638.7353 to register.

Monarch provides support and resources to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illness, and substance abuse issues throughout North Carolina. Monarch is a nonprofit and is an affiliated chapter of The Arc of North Carolina and The Arc of the United States. To learn more about how Monarch helps “dreams take flight” for people living in our communities, please call 1-800-230-7525 or visit online at www.MonarchNC.org.

For more information on the sustainable garden project please call Eileen Bress at 252-617-7407.