A vacant lot in Southwest Georgia once filled with junk cars and used for dirt biking is now feeding its local citizens.
With help from Fort Valley State University’s Cooperative Extension and 4-H programs, the Village Community Garden in Sylvester celebrated Farm and Field Day May 10.
From 9 a.m.-3p.m., more than 200 residents toured the community garden, ate barbeque and listened to presentations from various representatives of FVSU, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Services (NRCS), Worth County High School, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and local farmer Alfred Greenlee.
FVSU’s Mobile Information Technology Unit was on the scene as well, providing farmers an opportunity to enhance their computer skills and update their record keeping methods using spreadsheets. Stefan Price, FVSU’s Bulloch County Extension agent, instructed the brief workshop.
Sam X, project coordinator of the Village Community Garden, said the five acre plot of land was donated for the purpose of developing a community garden by the city of Sylvester. “The purpose of this garden is to bring people together, empower them and make sure they have healthy food. This is a healthy living program,” X said. X said that the garden was started one year ago.
Some of the plants grown in the garden are tomatoes, okra, watermelon and cantaloupes. The community garden also has a high tunnel hoop house, a structure which allows vegetables to be grown year-round. The hoop house features a hydroponics garden where some plants, such as cauliflower and basil, are grown without the use of soil.
Alice Milton, a retired educator from Sylvester visiting the community garden during the event, received some produce grown hydroponically at the community garden. She said X brought some broccoli and collard greens to the senior center one day. After preparing them, she could not tell the difference between those crops and crops grown using soil. Milton, who grew up on a farm, is amazed with the use hydroponic technology. “Our plants were grown in the soil. We had no irrigation like they do now and definitely did not have this kind of equipment.”
X said he is very grateful for the assistance FVSU’s Cooperative Extension Program provided with the community garden. “We would not have been able to do this without Fort Valley State University,” X said. “I thank God that my wife and I approached Dr. (Mark) Latimore (FVSU’s Extension Administrator) at Fort Valley State and told him what we’re trying to do. They actually believed in us,” X said. “Thank you Fort Valley State one million times. Thank you, thank you, thank you!” he exclaimed.
Charlie Grace, FVSU’s Dougherty County Extension agent, has been working with X for the past year. “Fort Valley State is supporting this project, and it is great for the community of Sylvester,” Grace said. Grace added that he used the Farm and Field Day event as a vehicle to expose farmers, community leaders, homeowners and ranchers to alternative outlets relating to agriculture. He said those individuals can learn from projects such as the utilization of hoop houses, tower (hydroponic) gardening and other techniques on display at the community garden.
For more information about projects or community gardens such as the one in Sylvester, contact Grace at (229) 436-7126 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.