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Community grows closer by gardening
DURANT – Holmes County, where 4-H was born as a “corn club” more than 100 years ago, is getting back to its roots by inspiring a new generation to garden.
A community garden project blossomed with the help of District 2 county supervisor James Young, the Mississippi State University Extension Service and local volunteers.
“This summer we had a successful season at the community garden in Durant,” said Holmes County Extension Director Betsy Padgett. “The enthusiasm of volunteers resulted in some beautiful, healthy produce that the gardeners and elderly members of these communities shared.”
Padgett and three of her staff members who are involved in food and nutrition programs wanted to address obesity and the chronic illnesses that accompany it. Someone suggested a community garden as one method of sharing healthy habits with a broad audience.
Padgett said the Durant Community Garden had several goals centered on healthy living.
“By providing people a place to grow their own fresh vegetables, we could demonstrate the benefits of productive exercise, healthy foods and community effort,” she said.
The Durant Community Garden, planned since 2010 and first planted in the fall of 2011, is on a vacant lot donated by the city. Padgett asked MSU Extension horticulture specialist David Nagel to help plan and develop of the site. With the leadership of Supervisor James Young, who brought his tractor, disc and planter, the initial garden yielded cabbage and collard, mustard and turnip greens.
“I’d been forewarned about the challenges of community gardening, and Dr. Nagel said that a good garden manager would be key,” Padgett said. “The Durant group found that to be true and found the right manager in Supervisor Young -- not only as a wonderful resource partner but as a good leader.”
Young said he got involved because of health issues in Holmes County.
“I’ve been a nursing professional for 34 years, so I know about health, and obesity is a problem in our county,” he said. “We need to eat healthier, and our senior citizens need access to fresh vegetables.”
The Durant community embraced the project by turning a 10-acre lot into a garden maintained by about 30 volunteers. The City of Durant donated the water.
“People from the senior citizens center came out and helped me plant, as well as children and families,” Young said. “They loved it and were so appreciative of it. This summer we planted string beans, butter beans, bell peppers, 54 rows of pink-eye purple hull peas, tomatoes, okra, hot peppers, sweet potatoes, zucchini, yellow squash -- a variety of stuff. Vaiden Co-Op donated a lot of the seed. It’s been a good thing for our community, and it’s just getting better and better.”
Over 100 people from Durant and surrounding towns came to the summer harvest. Padgett said Young insisted they harvest for themselves and for their elderly neighbors who could not grow and pick their own produce. He also encouraged those from outside Durant to start their own community gardens when they returned home.
“The folks who started that garden earnestly wanted it, never backed away from the work involved and have reaped both from their 2011 fall garden and this summer’s bountiful garden,” Padgett said. “They’re getting ready for their 2012 fall garden, and if given the opportunity, they will continue to make this project a success. Their persistence, hard work and camaraderie are a model for a truly community-based garden.”