Community gardening has gained in popularity over recent years and there are several local, thriving gardens where you can either volunteer or rent a plot of land to garden. Join AlpharettaMoms.Org as we explore the advantages of community gardening, how children can get involved and learn more about the local gardens available to residents. There are many positive reasons to become involved in a community garden. Maybe you love to garden, but don’t receive the right amount of sun or have adequate space to grow your own garden at home. The Farm to Table movement has many people desiring fresh, locally grown produce as opposed to produce that may have been sprayed with pesticides or chemicals by a major corporation. From a community perspective, community gardens can increase social interaction, pride and and food security. For parents, they can increase fruit/vegetable access and knowledge as well as help with community involvement and interest. Children’s fruit and vegetable intake may increase as they eat produce they help grow and its fresh from the garden! Children’s physical activity and food systems literacy can be improved as they learn where food comes from. Gardening may also help children with basic business principles and the importance of community. We can help teach children ownership and encourage them to suggest what will be planted as well as to help maintain the garden. The Alpharetta Community Garden (spring 2014 pic above right) has grown from a seed of an idea to a flourishing garden with over 40+ active garden plots for individual gardeners and the community. The ACG is a 501c3 and completely run by volunteers. They are thankful to the City of Alpharetta for allowing them to use space at Wills Park. The ACG Gardeners are a very generous volunteer group sharing both their time and talents with each other and the community at large. It is a unique place where folks can learn to grow their own food or have the sun to grow a garden or where people can be around other gardeners. The ACG Gardeners conduct educational classes as well as donate hundreds of pounds of fresh produce to charity each year. The ACG offers three enabled beds that are raised higher and a Children’s Demo area. The Children’s Demo area will be outside the ACG fence and can be visited by children with their parents. The ACG charges $50/year to lease a plot or $20 annually if you are 65 years of age or older and is available to all Alpharetta and Milton residents who provide their street address, email and phone number. Please contact Kate Tunison or Alice Wood at email@example.com to be placed on the waiting list. The Johns Creek Community Garden at Newtown Park is open to any Johns Creek resident interested in planting and maintaining a small garden plot. The Newtown Community Garden features 41 raised beds for planting flowers, vegetables and herbs. Individuals or groups can sign up for one or more beds, each measuring four feet by eight feet by 12 inches high. For older gardeners, there are beds that measure 36 inches high that require less stooping. The garden is open year round, starting with spring planting in April, from dawn until dusk. Membership in the Johns Creek Garden Association, which operates and manages the garden, is required along with a small fee. Each participating gardener provides seeds or plants for their plot. The City of Johns Creek pays for the water usage. The Chattahoochee Nature Center has a 10,000 square foot urban farm established in 2010 thanks to continued support from Kaiser Permanente. The Unity Garden has produced and donated more than thirteen tons of fresh produce for the food pantry at North Fulton Community Charities. From this quarter-acre site, the horticulture team brings in groups of volunteers to help grow fresh and healthy produce, averaging 7,000 pounds per year. The sustainable garden has three goals: production, donation, and education. With community volunteers, the year-round garden produces a variety of nutritious vegetables, fruits and herbs. Gardening continues to be a catalyst for community collaboration and interaction. According to Fred Conrad with the Atlanta Food Bank, CNC’s garden is one of the top producing community gardens in the greater Atlanta Area! Katie Gibson, the Unity Garden Coordinator, said, “Many people don’t realize that we can grow crops year round. In reality, it’s quite easy here in Georgia, because we are lucky to have a long growing season. Foods like lettuces, cabbage, collards, cilantro, spinach and carrots actually prefer the cooler winter weather. The warmer months are still our biggest producers though, when we can often harvest over 400 pounds in a single week.” Libby Lintel said, “We can’t do this without our volunteers. They keep our garden growing. Our volunteers include adults, teens, young adult organizations and corporate groups. Last year, we facilitated over 3,000 hours of volunteer service from individuals, schools, service organizations, and corporate groups. We operate year-round; in fact, we need ADDITIONAL help in the fall and spring, as the crops include thousands of heads of lettuce and other healthy greens.” Committing to work in the Kaiser Permanente Unity Garden is an ideal way to learn all about vegetable gardening – from spring through fall. Volunteers are welcome on a weekly basis, twice a month, or even for a single visit! Corporate groups of 15-20 volunteers are also welcome. Contact Katie Gibson at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. AMO is proud to say much of this article can be seen in the April edition of North Fulton Family Life Publications!! Information on CNC’s Unity Garden provided by the Chattahoochee Nature Center. Additional information on community gardening may be found at kidsgardening.org and communitygarden.org. Photos in this post provided by the CNC and Alpharetta Community Garden.