Griffin Garden Committee Forms. Monthly discussions begin.
April 18, 2012
Mission and goals of Healthy Life Community Garden established.
May 9, 2012
Center for Urban Agriculture requests funding from the Griffin Housing Authority.
July 4, 2012
Garden site selected at historic Rosenwald School.
October 3, 2012
Asbestos removed from old school building.
January 2, 2013
Patty Beckham, Program Assistant hired to support garden activities
February 1, 2013
Dilapidated school building torn down.
February 13, 2013
Fruit trees planted.
February 27, 2013
Soil prepared for community garden.
March 13, 2013
Extension program assistant hired to support the garden.
April 16, 2013
Garden is planted with 18 raised beds and a 6000 sq ft in-ground garden. Fifteen gardeners sign up for the garden.
April 18, 2013
Governance of HLCG turned over to governing board of gardeners.
July 3, 2013
Rules established for garden.
July 10, 2013
Discussion of Fairmont Heritage Park and Historic District begins. Concerned citizens meet and Historic District Committee is formed.
September 25, 2013
In first season gardeners harvest tomatoes, peppers, green beans, potatoes, okra, various herbs, watermelons, greens, various lettuces, Swiss chard, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, beets, eggplant, radish. An herb garden and butterfly garden add to the beauty of the HLCG and the children have created their own “fairy garden.”
October 2, 2013
Center of Community Design and Preservation (CCDP) of the UGA College of Environment and Design hold a workshop in the Fairmont community. Twenty-one graduate students in design and preservation attend.
October 16, 2013
The first growing season was celebrated with a Halloween Trick-or-Treat party. More that 200 children from the neighborhood came through the garden and enjoyed themselves in a safe and positive environment.
October 31, 2013
Community members meet and provide input to the charrette design ideas.
December 4, 2013
UGA Griffin Campus Librarian contacts Special Collections of Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies at UGA. Initiate discussions, which lead to the Griffin African American Oral History Project.
March 19, 2014
Two Gardeners graduate from Master Gardener training.
March 26, 2014
Griffin Campus Liberian presents a brief history of the Fairmont subdivision to celebrate 60th Anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education.
May 17, 2014
Porta-Potty rented and installed.
June 4, 2014
Ferst Foundation sponsors Wednesday Reading in the Garden for Children.
June 18, 2014
Junior Master Gardener Program begins.
September 10, 2014
HLCG is one of several projects in the Griffin Housing Authority’s Educational Prosperity Initiative recognized with a National Award of Excellence from the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials
September 25, 2014
Over 1500 pounds of food were produced this summer.
October 23, 2014
Oral history project and goals are outlined. The collaboration will involve gardeners, community organizations and faculty to create professional audio-only oral histories of Fairmont residents focusing on the community and the process of integration.
January 28, 2015
Oral History Project presented to gardeners and others at the Educational Prosperity Initiative Meeting. Community members volunteer to be interviewed.
March 18, 2015
Educational program on worms!
July 18, 2015
Renovation of the Rosenwald School, gymnasium, and Fairmont area parks approved
November 3, 2015
The Healthy Life Community Garden (HLGC) was established in 2012 as one of many projects to support an educational initiative for a blighted neighborhood. The garden contains 21 raised beds, 6000 square feet of open gardens, fruit trees and a welcoming community area. HLGC serves as a focal point for Extension programing and provides a safe location for children’s activities. The increased traffic at HLCG helped focus attention on the historic Rosenwald School located next to the garden. This attention resulted in an innovative community development plan to make improvements to the Rosenwald School, Fairmont Homes and the surrounding community.
Griffin in Spalding County faces many challenges. Poverty rates in the county average 27% with many areas exceeding this rate. The countywide crime rate is in the top 3% of the state. Much of the city of Griffin lies within an identified USDA food desert.
The Fairmont Community, once a proud middle class African American community on the north side of Griffin faces these challenges. Residents, especially public housing residents, lack the space necessary to grow gardens. They are generations removed from subsistence gardening and therefore lack general knowledge, experience and confidence in growing and cooking fresh vegetables. Many survive on fixed incomes therefore unable to invest in gardening inputs. Some suffer from health conditions which exercise can improve. The social aspects of community gardening can greatly improve the quality of life as well.
Materials and Methods
The Healthy Life Community Garden (HLCG) has provided a unique opportunity to extend Extension services to new clientele. It was created to help the community grow fresh produce, raise beautiful flowers, and cultivate healthy, caring neighborhoods. UGA Extension in Spalding Country, with the help of many partners, provides leadership and Extension programming to develop and sustain the gardeners and the garden. The Griffin Housing Authority has provided funding to support a part-time (19 hours/week) program assistant.
HLCG now contains 21 raised beds, 6000 sq ft traditional garden, a growing number of fruit and berry plantings, 17 gardeners, 2 trained Master Gardener Extension Volunteers and many community volunteers. The space is growing food, building trust and relationships across cultural lines. Griffin Housing Authority has provided $61,500 in garden support funding since FY 2012. Donations and grants total $1,800. UGA Extension training provides gardeners with current cultural practices. Staff, gardeners and volunteers accomplish tasks together working to culture the garden, but more importantly to culture trust and build relationships.
The garden has become the spark that has ignited other projects that will play important roles in the revitalization of the neighborhood. HLCG helped focus attention on the historic Rosenwald School in Griffin and catalyzed the creation of a steering committee for community development. The committee invited the Center of Community Design and Preservation (CCDP) of the UGA College of Environment and Design to hold a charrette (collaborative effort to create design solutions) in the Fairmont community. The resulting design plans will be used to solicit support and seek funding for Fairmont Community revitalization.
The Rosenwald School and experiences of community members have drawn the interest of the oral history and media archivists at the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies at UGA. The collaboration will involve gardeners, community organizations and faculty to create professional, audio-only oral histories of Fairmont residents. Their stories will focus on the community and their experiences during integration.
Lessons to Learn
- Growing food is the easy part, establishing trust takes time.
- Insure a strong planning team with broad community representation.
- Identify resources and needs.
- Have a plan in place before gardening season, allow 6-12 months for plan development.
- Utilize the knowledge and influence of partners and the community served.
- Maintain an Advisory Board which includes members of the community served to provide input, support, goal setting and communication.
- Have a budget and understand the funding source(s) commitment to a long term project.
- Be creative in gardener recruitment.
- Create a gardener commitment form which includes garden rules. Keep the rules simple but fair to all involved and enforce them.
- Avoid becoming the community gardener.
- Include activities to demonstrate harvest, handling, preparing and cooking fresh vegetables.
- Encourage and schedule regular social activities to boost recruitment.
- Engage community youth in regular gardening, educational and fun activities.
- Make the garden as easy to get to and in to as possible.
- Utilize hands on trainings and garden work days to teach as opposed to formal sessions.
- Get a restroom as gardening stops with a full bladder and youth can’t wait.
- City of Griffin Water Department and Storm-Water Department
- Educational Prosperity Initiative
- Griffin Branch of the NAACP
- Griffin Housing Authority
- Griffin Spalding County School System
- Griffin-Spalding Chamber of Commerce
- Griffin-Spalding Chamber of Commerce
- Kiwanis of Griffin
- Residents of The Fairmont Community
- Southern Crescent Technical College
- Spalding Collaborative
- Spalding County Parks and Recreation, County Public Works, Water Department
- Spalding Regional Hospital
- UGA Center for Urban Agriculture
- UGA Cooperative Extension
- UGA Faculty