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Community garden is for the needy, not the greedy

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By Jenny Arnold

From what I’m hearing from my friends, the Lancaster County Community Garden is a success.

The garden, which was spearheaded by the United Way of Lancaster County and Lancaster County Parks and Recreation, was planted on some land near the Springdale Recreation Center.

Those willing to weed and care for the garden were given plots, to raise food for themselves or donate to local food banks.

The garden has blossomed, yielding delicious summer crops like peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, squash and zucchini. I’ve personally eaten some of these vegetables at the supper tables of my generous friends.

But I heard something a bit alarming recently from a friend of mine, who regularly works her plot at the garden.

While she was in her plot on a recent day, sweating in the hot and humid July weather, she said a van load of folks drove up and began helping themselves to the bounty of the community garden.

Giving them the benefit of the doubt, maybe these people were hungry, my friend said.

Then one of the marauders said, “This okra will be ready in a few days.”

However, I’m not certain if a hungry person trying to feed their family is ever overly concerned with the maturity of okra.

Local United Way Interim Director Carolyn Petroski said she expected some confusion about the garden in its inaugural year.

“That’s not unusual for the first year of something,” she said. “I don’t think there’s been a lot of freeloading.”

Plots were offered first to those in the greatest financial need, Petroski said. Those selected for the community garden project were referred by HOPE in Lancaster, Christian Services or the local office of the S.C. Employment Security Commission.

“We wanted to provide space and education for people to grow their own food,” she said. “We wanted to teach people how to garden. Locally-grown produce is better for you.”

Other people signed up to grow food that could be donated to seniors they know, to neighbors in need or to Christian Services, which distributes fresh produce Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Petroski said. For details about how to receive food assistance from Christian Services, call 285-4444.

Petroski said the garden has been a success, with some gardeners interested in growing fall and winter gardens as well.

A few plots are still available for fall and winter gardens, Petroski said. Anyone interested in growing their own produce as the weather gets colder may call her at 283-8923 to apply.

But a gentle reminder, for the fall/winter garden, and for next year’s spring and summer crops: Those who want to reap the garden’s bounty need to be willing to invest some sweat equity. Don’t pick what you don’t grow. That’s just wrong.

“We would like people to put forth at least some of the effort,” Petroski said.