CHURCH HILL SENIOR CENTER GARDEN
Founded in 2010, the Church Hill Senior Center Garden is a raised bed vegetable, herb, native perennial and annual garden. Over a three year period, we built out to our full capacity of 37 beds.
On land donated by the city of Church Hill (a nice Main St location adjacent to the police station!), we have a three season garden which is insecticide free. We utilize a rain barrel system on our shed to supply water to the garden and make our own compost to enrich the beds. We grow “up, not out” and can produce more food in a smaller space.
Located in Hawkins County, an area which struggles with “food insecurity”, the garden donates all of its produce back to the community. The food pantry run by Of One Accord Ministry and the senior center lunch program are the primary recipients. Through them, we are able to reach over 400 families monthly and help provide them with fresh, nutritious vegetables.
The past two seasons have shown both growth in the garden and growth on its impact in the community. In 2015, the garden’s supply of fresh vegetables to the Senior Center helped them to reach a milestone of providing 1000 meals a month to the seniors during the three summer months. The garden surpassed 20,000 pounds of produce donated since its start in 2010.
In 2014 we added a berm to help divert downhill water flow and planted it with 3 types of berries. In 2016, the berry berm produced its first crop of nutritious blackberries.
We have added hoop houses to extend the growing season and to help with insect control.
Our educational focus is on the youth of the community – local scout troops, library reading groups, and church youth participate in learning programs and help us to plant various crops. The garden also sponsors an Arbor Day native tree planting each season to help beautify the land surrounding the site.
We have several additional educational aspects at the garden. Plantings of native shrubs and perennials and a herb garden have been labeled with large print identification signs (this is a senior garden after all!) A corresponding self-guided tour pamphlet has been produced and is available at several community locations – giving information on each labeled plant including best growing conditions and, in the case of the herbs, suggestions for culinary use.
We are grateful to all of the local businesses and individuals who support our efforts.
We were honored to be featured in the 2016 spring addition of “Discover Hawkins County” – a semiannual publication distributed to tourism bureaus throughout the state. The article begins on page 34. https://issuu.com/therogersvillereview/docs/dhc_spring16
The garden experienced another expansion in 2017.
With the help of the Volunteer High School FFA students, we built 4 new beds, added another compost bin and made a work/weigh area complete with table and benches.
The library’s summer reading group came for a day’s visit to help “Build a Better World” and in the process learned about pollination, planting and the diverse spectrum of life present in the garden.
Our most productive growing season to date allowed us to distribute another 4400 pounds to the community.
We continue to introduce new varieties of vegetables each year in the garden – in part to satisfy our own curiosity, but also to expand the nutritional status and taste sensations at the senior lunch program and the food pantry.
A future educational program will focus on preparation and nutritional information of the produce.
2020 started out as a typical year, with a January planning meeting and help from the Volunteer FFA students to spread the compost in the beds. Then, like the rest of the world, the gardeners had to adjust to the new reality.
Since the garden workers number has dwindled, it was relatively easy to keep a six foot distance while tending the beds. However, with the “temporary” closure of the senior center, a new outlet for some of our produce was needed.
After giving the majority of the spring crops to the Food Pantry, it was decided that the summer crops would be shared with the pantry and also members of the senior center willing to stop by the garden on Mondays.
We also began to share the earth’s bounty with the local Meals on Wheels program – allowing housebound seniors the ability to enjoy fresh summer tomatoes.
Despite the inability to hold group educational sessions right now, we still have individuals stopping by the garden on workdays to ask questions and share gardening insights. The gardeners and the community have adjusted to the current circumstances and hope to continue our eleven year tradition of supplying fresh nutritious produce to the seniors and those in need.
We would appreciate the involvement of a new group of Master Gardeners. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to participate.