- Garner, Christina Tamara
Community gardens increase access to fresh vegetables, encourage healthy eating habits, and grow social relationships and trust among community members. As a part of the Healthier Together Grant, provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, raised garden beds have been installed in Stewart County. The garden locations provide community members with the opportunity to harvest their own vegetables and learn about the benefits of gardening.
Stewart County is a rural community with a population of 4,621 people. The median household income is $24,900. The poverty rate is 37.9% with most of the county defined as a USDA food desert. 35% of adults are obese as determined by the Centers for Disease Control. Due to limited access to healthy foods and physical activity, Stewart County residents have increased rates of chronic disease and poor health indicators.
Through a 5-year CDC Grant, the FACS Agent has developed a community coalition to identify, plan, and implement projects that will provide healthy food options to citizens. The community coalition and Extension team installed eleven raised garden beds at the county extension office and in downtown Richland. The Richland garden was installed within walking distance of several households and open to all community members. The FACS Agent, in collaboration with ANR Agents in Webster & Calhoun counties, installed the gardens, educated volunteers to plant/grow/harvest produce, and provide solutions to garden issues. A leadership team was created to provide guidance and oversee day to day needs at the garden. Three of the raised garden beds were installed at the Stewart County Extension office as an outdoor classroom. These beds were planted with okra, eggplant, cantaloupes, tomatoes, and bell peppers in the spring. The garden will serve as a location for outdoor classes for both youth and adults to engage audiences in hands-on activities.
The raised garden beds have flourished and provided citizens a new access point for fresh produce. A variety of vegetables were produced and available for families to harvest throughout the season. “Just being able to provide them fresh fruit and vegetables here, because at our city we have no local grocery store, so they have to travel to get fresh produce or fresh fruits.” – Community Coalition Team Member One hundred and twelve (112) volunteer hours were spent in the gardens; installing the beds, harvesting, daily and overall maintenance, and installing a drip irrigation system for more efficient watering. Additionally, eleven (11) people are committed to the garden and are a part of the work group. While the gardens have met the initial objective of providing more healthy foods options, they have also strengthened community relationships, which will yield positive long-term impacts. “Very exciting. Something's going on in a small community. A lot of good things don't happen in our small communities, we don't have the funds, we don't have the means. So, this is something that's very exciting to all of us.” – Community Coalition Team member
Health & Wellness
- Year: 2020
- Geographic Scope: County
- County: Stewart
- Location: College Station, Athens
- Family and Consumer Sciences
- Bowden, Charles Clifford
- Harris, Blair Hamilton