Article by Tammy Andrews ©2016, Clay County Web
Call it the “Field of Dreams”, if you will, because for some, that’s just what it is. Doesn’t look like much right now to the naked eye, yet in a couple of weeks it will begin to take on a new form as Clay County residents attempt to breathe life into the rich soil.
What would seem like nothing more than an empty field and a mound of dirt holds the promise of a new beginning for many of these residents, as their excitement of getting “back to the basics” start to take hold.
In early Summer 2015, the Ashland Housing Development Corp (AHDC) began their quest for a means to provide healthy meals for low-income residents of the Ashland Housing Authority. Let’s face it though, eating healthy is expensive, unless you have access to fresh garden foods, which many of these do not. And at this day and age, even eating what we think are nutritious foods bought at supermarkets can do more harm than good, with hidden pesticides of vegetables grown and shipped in from other countries. That’s where the idea of a Community Garden was born, one where anyone who was willing could participate and reap the rewards of good home-grown foods.
The AHDC presented the idea to Ashland city officials and were awarded a one-acre land donation in the Westside Community for this purpose of the garden site. With a grant from Coosa Valley RC&D, they were also able to install a freshwater well for irrigation, an eight-hundred square foot grow house and fifteen hundred feet of traditional and plastic covered rows to grow on.
Container gardens in a variety of shapes and sizes were scattered in the placement for residents to create their own personal garden to grow their food. Even the county officials were glad to donate a huge mound of soil for the garden. And with that, the Ashland Community Garden was born.
So, now here we are, as April 2016 is upon us with all its glory. Trees are budding, flowers are blooming, and residents have already begun planting. Community volunteers have done all the weeding and soil prep. Now comes the seeding and planting for the Spring growing season. After this weekends cold snap, the soil temps are about ready to plant the anticipation is in the air.
“Resident participation is going to be huge this year” says Jason, with a smile, as he tells me stories of the interaction with some of the residents in the field. “Some of these people are so excited about this garden. I have disabled residents who can’t do much, yet they bring jugs of water. There are elderly residents who grew up gardening, but haven’t had the chance to practice it since they moved into public housing. I have kids who are very curious and eager to learn. Dollie, a long time Ashland resident cooked her cabbage and greens and brought us a plate.”
“The art of gardening is quickly becoming extinct. The generation gap of those who once knew these skills as a way of life are passing on, which leaves no one to teach the younger generation, and there are those who are eager to learn. Not to mention, the older generation who still appreciate this skill who are not in the position to do it anymore, usually for health reasons. The reasons to keep this skill alive are plentiful and much needed, in my book”, says Stan,” We’re only a couple of generations of that knowledge and skill completely disappearing.”
The Ashland Housing Development Corporation hopes to broaden the spectrum of community services offered that would enhance not only the community, but the county as well. The Ashland Community Garden will lay the foundation for many of these services. More details to follow on current projects in the works at a later date.
“Overall, we just want to make it a better place” says Stan Gaither, executive director the the AHDC, “For years, I’ve realized that change is inevitable, and even though change has always seem to come slow to Clay County, our logic is that if we manage that change, it can be brought about in a positive light.”
Their summation of the variety of programs they are looking to offer the community is simply this: “Our unofficial motto here is we want to give people a hand up, not a hand out. We want to teach people how to be successful. We want to improve the lives of the residents of Clay County as a whole, for the future of our community and for our kids.
You can keep up with the Ashland Community Garden on Facebook/ashlandcommunitygarden and the garden is located at 105 King Street in Ashland behind Showplace Rentals. If you have plants, seeds, tools or something else you wish to donate, there is a donation drop off area at the garden.