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Community garden brings people together

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By Michele Roberts

The onset of warmer weather causes many people to think about gardening, and the Lancaster Community Garden offers gardening opportunities to local residents free of charge.

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From beginner to master gardener, everyone is welcome to take advantage of the garden’s 10-by-20-foot plots, said Elaine McKinney, project manager and garden coordinator.

“This is a membership garden open to any Lancaster County resident, and it’s all free of charge,” McKinney said. “We have 160 plots over one acre and we are able to secure all the plants and seeds. It’s the gardener’s responsibility to keep the plots clear from weeds, but everything else is taken care of.”

The community garden, located on Springdale Road near the soccer fields, was created in 2009. McKinney said the garden, which is a cooperative outreach program between United Way of Lancaster County and Lancaster Parks and Recreation Department, has been a great success in many different ways.

“It’s really been a wonderful way to bring people together,” she said. “Everyone helps everyone else, and we have people from all walks of life that tend plots here. One thing we do is ask everyone to plant an extra row of vegetables that we harvest and give back to the community. Last year, we gave away 30,000 pounds of squash, tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini to churches and other places in the community like Jackie’s Place, HOPE in Lancaster and Christian Services. And that is just what we gave away, so there’s quite a harvest that comes out of this garden.”
McKinney said Sandy Lovern, Scott Atkins and Kirk Hovis are local farmers and greenhouse owners who contribute seeds and plants to the garden. While there are no membership dues or fees, occasionally donations will be asked for to purchase larger items, such as the water tanks to keep the garden irrigated.

“When we ask for donations for a purchase [such water tanks], it’s usually no more than $10 per plot and people have been happy to give it,” she said. “And there have been businesses in the community that have reached out to help us, like Carolina Chiropractic and Wellness in Indian Land. They donated money last year that made it possible for us to buy more water tanks, which can cost as much as $300 a piece. We are very grateful for his help, and the help of the Indian Land Rotary Club, which made that possible.”

Carolina Chiropractic and Wellness is also raising money for the garden this year.

“On April 1, we started a campaign that will last until June 30,” said Candace Wallat, practice representative. “For any new patient that comes into the office, we will only charge $20 for the initial visit, which will include X-rays, an exam and consultation. Those $20 payments will be set aside until the end of June, at which point we will write a check to the community garden. This is so much fun for us to do, and so many people get helped by it. The people that come into the office get the physical help they need, and that will help them feel better, and the garden receives funds that will keep them operating and helping the community in all the ways that it does. It’s a win-win situation all the way around.”

McKinney said another way the community gets involved is by local businesses sending out volunteers to help get the plots cleaned out and ready for planting.

“Sometimes we have people use a plot and then just disappear by the next growing season,” she said. “It’s unfortunate and breaks our heart, but it happens. So companies like Duke Power, Wal-Mart and Founders have donated employees to help us get the garden ready. It’s great to know we have such a good community here, and that the plots that belong to the older folks will be just as clean as the ones that belong to the younger folks. It’s the idea of everyone helping everyone else that makes it so special.”

Children aren’t excluded from the joys of gardening, either. A special Kiddie Korner has been set aside for children and McKinney expects that 20 children will participate over the summer months.

“They really seem to enjoy it and it’s important that they learn about the benefits of eating healthy food they’ve grown with their own hands,” she said. “We also have a program that teaches folks how to make baby food from fresh foods out of the garden.”

Planting for this year’s garden began on April 13 and McKinney said there are still plots available. For more information or to download an application, visit the garden’s website at www.lccgarden.webs.com.

Applications can also be picked up at various locations throughout Lancaster. More information can also be obtained by calling (803) 283-8923.