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Brookhaven group to host community garden meeting

A Brookhaven non-profit group is starting a community garden in the hopes two specific groups of people will come together in the dirt — old folks who want to keep a garden but lack the strength, and young folks who want to start a garden but lack the knowledge.

The Greater Hope Foundation is hosting a community gardening seminar Saturday called “Community Gardens: Growing Communities,” that will teach how to set up and manage community gardens and their benefits. Admission to the seminar is free and open to anyone interested in starting a community garden in their neighborhood, and will be taught by agriculture and gardening experts from the Alcorn State University Extension Service.

“A lot of elderly people would like to garden, but they can’t do gardens — they can do raised beds or container gardens, so we’re going to provide them an opportunity to get that information,” said Floretta Williams, director of the Greater Hope Foundation. “We look forward to their help, because it will give them something to do and hopefully they will be able to share that information around the community and with their families.”

The seminar begins at the foundation’s headquarters at 1955 New Sight Drive at 10 a.m. and lasts until 1 p.m. 

Margeria Smith, an agricultural educator with the ASU Extension Office, will teach the seminar. She said community gardens are great projects to promote health, education and fitness, as they encourage planning, work and cooperation and result in fresh, healthy food.

She said the rise of local farmers markets, like the popular Brookhaven Farmers Market, has encouraged more people to incorporate fresh produce into their diets, but with “a fast food restaurant on every corner,” the work isn’t done.

“It’s always good to make sure we continue to educate communities on how to grow your own vegetables and herbs, and how to incorporate them in your personal diet,” Smith said. “It’s good financial management, too — you won’t have to keep running to the grocery store and spending money. And it’s great for stress. You come out with some of your neighbors, you go through the garden and pick — it’s kind of a meditation thing.”

Attendees to Saturday’s community gardening seminar will be ready to take the knowledge back to their own communities and begin planning, or they can get in some practice by joining the Greater Hope Foundation’s community garden.

Williams said the foundation will begin a community garden this summer on land owned by the foundation’s sponsor, New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, with hopes of having a fall harvest for the foundation’s food bank, which is now in its 13th year of helping needy families. The foundation garden will be planted in raised beds with water readily available.

Volunteers who donate their time to the foundation’s garden will get a closer look at the scientific side of gardening, as the foundation will continue working with ASU for soil sample checks and other recommendations to ensure the garden is successful.

“Anyone who wants to join us can have a small space,” Williams said.