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Increasing Healthy Living in North Carolina Communities:
Eat Smart, Move More Community Grants

Jackson County Develops Community Garden

Jackson County Health Department received the 2012-2013 Eat Smart, Move More Community Grant to develop the Cullowhee Community Garden. The garden was developed on county-owned land that also serves as the trailhead for the Jackson County Greenway project. The Cullowhee Community Garden was created to provide space, tools, materials and assistance to community members so that they could grow organic produce. Community members can adopt garden plots, and volunteer opportunities are also available to community members without a plot of their own. Half of the produce grown on garden plots is donated to a local soup kitchen, The Community Table of Sylva, NC.

Land owned by Jackson County was prepped for The Cullowhee Community Garden in the fall of 2012. A cover crop was grown over the winter to help retain and build soil. The Jackson County Department of Parks and Recreation funded and supported the construction of a parking area for the garden. Once the parking area was finished, garden plots were marked and made available for adoption by community members. The first plots were adopted in the first week of May 2013. Twenty-four plots were adopted, and an abundance of produce was grown in the Cullowhee Community Garden.

Partners for the project included:

  • Jackson County Department of Parks and Recreation
  • Jackson County Planning Department
  • Western Carolina University Department of Service Learning
  • The Community Table of Sylva
  • H.I.G.H.T.S. Program of Jackson County Psychological Services
  • NC Cooperative Extension of Jackson County
  • WCU Facilities Management

A local resident had this to say about the garden: “We are very excited about the Cullowhee Community Garden. We live in a neighborhood close by that is on the planned greenway. However, our yard is heavily wooded, and we cannot get enough sunlight to grow a good garden. We believe that the greenway and garden will be great ways to build community, learn more about growing good food and help family members bond.”

The implementation of the Cullowhee Community Garden has given Jackson County a sustainable community garden with secure land-tenure. Tools and equipment were chosen for quality and strength of materials, with long-term use and durability in mind. Water was provided from an adjacent creek using a solar-powered water pump.

The opportunity now exists to demonstrate organic gardening, landscaping with native and/or edible plants, use of alternative energy, and ecologically based decision-making. Future plans include the full development of a garden-based, environmental education project that will include the trailhead for the Jackson County Greenway in Cullowhee; a boardwalk into the wetland area with interpretive signs; construction of a greenhouse; planting of fruit trees and shrubs; and development of an after-school and summer program for area youth.

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