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

Orange County Supports Healthy Eating for Community

Orange County received the 2012-2013 Eat Smart, Move More Community Grant to revitalize and develop the Fairview Community Garden to serve as a neighborhood gathering place and provide access to healthy foods.

In 2009, the Fairview Community Garden (known at that time as Tulip Tree Community Garden) was established on a plot of land donated for that purpose by Orange County Habitat for Humanity. The intent was for the community garden to serve as a gathering place and provide access to healthy foods. Though well-intended, full community participation was not realized, consistent and sustained leadership was lacking, and within the first two years the garden fell into disrepair.

In 2011, a group consisting of the Fairview Community Watch Group, Orange County Master Gardeners and Orange County Health Department, Health Promotion Unit staff was formed to explore the possibility of revitalizing the garden. Through conversations with residents and master gardeners and observations of other model gardens, a list of factors that may have contributed to the garden’s demise was formed. Using this information, the group held a community meeting and developed a plan to address all of the issues, and funding was secured.

Key decisions made about the garden included:

  • Develop one community garden rather than individual plots.
  • Identify families with need and interest in receiving fresh vegetables harvested from the garden (in addition to those who work in the garden taking produce).
  • Teach children to garden, perhaps by developing relationships between adults and young children.
  • Assure that residents know the source of funding for the community garden.
  • Begin the process of garden preparation and reconstruction as soon as possible.
  • Continue outreach to others in the community who may be interested in the garden.

During the summer of 2012, a master plan was put together with the help of a local landscape architect to develop and beautify the garden site. The plan involved building an information kiosk, a shelter with picnic tables, a gravel pathway from the street to the garden to accommodate walking as well as handicapped accessibility, and landscaping around the garden with various plantings such as native flowering shrubs, blueberry bushes and a few small fruit trees.

The original garden did not have easy access or a source of water, so an irrigation system was installed, and the construction of a path leading from the road to the shelter and the garden entrance was completed. The path is wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs. Two external raised beds located on a widened expanse of the path are also easily accessible to residents in wheelchairs.

With the completion of the garden, the community held garden festivals, which drew great interest. Cooking demonstrations at the festival introduced new ways of preparing food. One garden member reported that in addition to her traditional southern style of cooking, she was now stir-frying greens as demonstrated by the chef.

As anticipated, young children were the most enthusiastic garden participants. The Community Garden workdays successfully drew a consistent group of elementary-aged and some occasional middle school-aged children from the immediate neighborhood. These children brought innate enthusiasm for being outdoors and an interest in planting and growing vegetables. They were quite motivated to learn about all aspects of the gardening experience - from growing and tasting vegetables to learning about soil, garden pests, and beneficial insects.

As a result of the grant, significant accomplishments were made in building an inviting and functional garden space while also building community among neighbors who have an interest in gardening and fresh affordable vegetables. These foundations of infrastructure and community involvement set the stage for continued, community-led development and maintenance of the garden.

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