Gardens doing good #1: Teach a man to garden
Ever since I started blogging about gardening with kids (almost a year ago), I’ve been surprised at how frequently I hear or read about how people are using gardens to help other people. Maybe they’re planting a school garden, providing fresh produce to a disaster-stricken area, or teaching kids to grow their own food. Gardening is good for us in so many ways, from nutrition to exercise to anti-anxiety therapy, and I love hearing about people who are sharing those blessings with others by sharing their gardens or their gardening skills. So this is the first in an occasional series of blog posts I’ll call “Gardens Doing Good.”
People are doing good things with gardens all over the world, but this particular “good garden” is local for me. The Gerald Williams Cooperative Garden Program (GWCGP) isn’t just one garden, but a whole host of gardens found in back yards and front yards across the Shoals area, where I live. A collaboration of several local agencies and a church, the program provides seeds, plants and fertilizer to low-income residents of our three-county area. Last week, the program distributed garden-starting supplies to 910 participants, reports the local newspaper, the Times Daily.
The GWCGP has been going on for several decades, but this year’s level of participation is the highest in recent memory, according to program organizers. One program leader told the newspaper they had to close registration three days early because they couldn’t afford to help more people. And those growing their own gardens through this program need the help: To participate, the 910 gardeners had to show that their monthly income is less than about $750 per month for one person or approximately $270 more per additional person.
I’m all for soup kitchens and food pantries, but I love how the GWCGP helps sustain families not just for a meal or a week, but for a whole growing season — or if they can and freeze their produce, as many surely do, for a whole year or more. This program reminds me of the old Chinese proverb: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Some of the people gardening with the GWCGP have been at it for more than 30 years. They know what they’re getting into — and what they’ll get out of it.
"This is not a hand-out program," one of the program’s coordinators told the Times Daily. "It takes a lot of work to grow a garden. If they take the seed and plants we provide and grow a garden, they have earned every bit of the food they produce."
Do you know of a group or individual who’s “doing good” with gardens? I’d love to hear about them and possibly feature them in a future post! Email me at nancy (at) nancyjackson.com.