Growing a community

It takes a village to raise a garden
By Jessi Stone Assistant editor | Apr 04, 2014
Photo by: Jessi Stone June Johnson of Maggie Valley helps place flags in the field behind Maggie Valley UMC to show where fruit trees will be planted.

When June Johnson of Maggie Valley looks out over the green fields behind Maggie Valley United Methodist Church, she doesn’t just see what’s there — she sees what could be.

She sees rows of fruit trees, honeybees, raised flowerbeds and grapevines. Johnson and the many volunteers who have signed up to assist with a community garden effort envision being able to feed hundreds of people in need through church feeding programs.

Since a first meeting was held last month to gauge interest, more than 70 people, businesses and organizations have stepped up to offer time, expertise, labor, monetary donations, and/or the purchase of gardening materials.

Johnson, a retired teacher, has been involved with beautification efforts in Maggie for many years, and what would make Maggie more beautiful than having community gardens all over town?


The planting plan

Maggie Valley United Methodist Church is allowing the gardeners to use some of its public park property behind the church to plant fruit trees and build beehives, raised beds and grapevines. The Henry family gave the property to the church in memory of Ms. Henry, who taught at the Maggie School for 45 years.

The plan is to plant four cherry trees and 10 apple trees with varieties of fruit meant for cooking and eating. To accompany the trees will be beehives, raised beds with bee-attracting plants and rows of grapevines.

With several of the local churches already feeding more than 150 people each week, Johnson said the goal was to be able to use the locally grown produce to help even more people in the community.

“Everything will be used to prepare meals,” she said.

Maggie Valley First Baptist Church is also getting involved by donating about one-fourth an acre to the community garden effort. That plot will be used to grow different varieties of tomatoes, potatoes, herbs and other companion plant — mainstays of that church’s feeding program.

Resident Ernestine Upchurch has volunteered half an acre around her home to be used to grow potatoes and companion plants. There also will be a pumpkin and melon patch grown on Gwen and Randy Evans’ farm.

Individuals and businesses have purchased fruit trees in memory of loved ones, and several Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce members purchased enough fruit trees to start an orchard this year. Johnson said the plan was to plant the trees this spring, but after further consideration, the trees will be planted in the fall to avoid irrigation costs through the summer months.

The plowing of the tomato, potato and pumpkin gardens will take place next week. Grace-in-the-Mountains Episcopal Church has provided seed potatoes for the potato patch as well as a box of seeds.

Volunteers are attempting to start the vegetables, flowers and herbs from seed in order to save money and assure organic practice. Johnson said the gardeners hope to use only best organic practices in all of the gardens.

Fortunately, the Haywood County Library System, the Cooperative Extension Office, the Tourist Development Authority and regional community garden outreach programs offer many educational classes pertaining to organic gardening and best practice.

Businesses will bloom

The volunteers also hope to get area businesses involved in the effort in return for some beautification services. The flower gardeners will design a plan, the business will pay for the plants and the gardeners will plant and provide upkeep of the flowers throughout summer and autumn.

Organizers hope to have the 6-mile, Soco Road strip awash in Ms. Maggie's colors, which are bright red, golden yellow, green and white accents.

“Any business that donates to us, we will get flowers planted in front of their business,” Johnson said. “We can design it and the town (public works department) can plant them.”

She hopes the town will coordinate with the effort by planting flowers in the medians, at town hall and at both ends of the valley.

“If we have a common palette, with various plants and designs, we will create a sense of place for travelers, businesses, and residents,” a community garden press release stated. “This is a core concept of what is called branding a community.”

Johnson said more than $1,200 in donations had come in already, which will go toward purchasing three or four beehives to be placed within the orchard. Discussion has also begun on the building of grape trellises.


Community support

Whether they are donating land, seeds, trees or other supplies needed to get the gardens started, everyone seems to be supporting the effort.

Maggie Valley Alderman Janet Banks has gotten involved and sees the potential impact of a project like this.

“This effort is designed to foster community spirit, provide activities for interested people and residents as well as provide long term nourishment for individuals as well as people in need,” she said. “It also is the first step in a long term goal of the Board of Alderman to provide an attractive spaces in the town that people would walk to, stop, look at, and visit with their neighbors or visitors.”

Maggie Valley Town Manager Nathan Clark said he was extremely excited about the community garden efforts and looks forward to the town partnering with the volunteers.

“It is no surprise that June Johnson is a driving force behind this project because of the sincere love she has for her town and her neighbors,” Clark said. “I think successful community gardens have permanent functions that provide a number of benefits to individuals, families and community in which it is located.”

The Growing A Community Steering Committee has been formed, and will become the advisory group for future efforts. Individuals in this committee are representative of the broad base of interest expressed in this effort. Future meetings will be held throughout Maggie Valley and the surrounding area. If you have interest in any aspect of the community gardening program, email or call 828-734-1294.

Comments (19)
Posted by: Allen Alsbrooks | Apr 05, 2014 02:58

Last year I decided I wanted to teach my sons how to grow our favorite veggies. I bought a couple of raised bed kits and set them out. I certainly don't have a green thumb at all. It failed miserably. We're going to try again this year.

When I first heard of the community garden I had visions of individual plots residents could use to plant their own gardens the way we saw them in larger cities when I was a child.  I hoped some kind soul would see our feeble attempts and stop by and offer friendly tips and lead us to success.

However, this is a whole nother side of things. WOW, Talk about a great way to help the community. I did not get to attend the initial meeting but after talking with Teresa Smith from the MV Chamber and then listening to Mrs. Johnson I just knew I had to do something. I signed up for the orchard when the form came to me. And I volunteered my son Matthew for labor!

This is an even better opportunity to have my son learn how to grow food and not rely on the grocery all of the time. It also will teach him a sense of community.

We can hardly wait to get our hands dirty and make this project a success.

Posted by: June D. Johnson | Apr 05, 2014 15:57


Thank you for your remarks and your offer of labor.  I'll toss a hoe to you and Matthew in the near future.

June D. Johnson


Posted by: Scott Lilly | Apr 07, 2014 11:00

Very cool indeed.  Habitat I think requires those that will receive their charitable homes to put a certain amount of sweat equity into their homes.  Are there any "people in need" that will donate their time/effort into this community project that might benefit from the fruits of those that labor?  (Pun intended)


I think it would be interesting to contrast this program with that of the farmer's market.  Both programs grow locally -- one to trade for currency, one to trade as charity.


I am reminded of Johnny Appleseed.  I had the words to the first two stanzas put on a plaque and hung around an apple tree I planted with my kids in the front yard.  There's a fine balance to teach "for self" and "for community" and the Johnny Appleseed story seems to go well with that.  Perhaps it ought to be the theme song of the community garden?


Please keep us updated on the milestones on this effort.

Posted by: Allen Alsbrooks | Apr 07, 2014 22:43

The Habitat model is one the United States government should adopt in it's welfare programs.

Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Apr 09, 2014 09:08

           Mr. Alsbrooks;


            That would be fine except that there is no or little means to accomplish this in many areas as there is no availability to resources to use.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Apr 09, 2014 11:33

Sure there is!  An able-bodied person could join the military for service just as easily as they could receive an unemployment check.  Those receiving food stamps could qualify as an exception to the minimum wage thereby allowing local farmers to hire them at a discount to work the fields.  Those receiving disability could perform government phone calling jobs or computer jobs from their homes.  Those living in public housing could be required to perform public housing maintenance.  Those receiving Section8 assistance could work litter patrols or school maintenance or construction crews.  (I've seen public works departments use low-risk inmates to hold "slow" traffic signs for little or no pay.)


If people actually have to put in effort to receive charity, you'll find that the amount of charity that's needed will be dramatically reduced.

Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Apr 10, 2014 10:27

                       The obligation We have to the least of US is not charity.


Posted by: Allen Alsbrooks | Apr 10, 2014 11:46

There is a difference between "helping" someone in need and "enabling" poor choices or laziness.

Posted by: Scott Lilly | Apr 10, 2014 13:03

Like the guy on the off ramp of the interstate holding the "will work for food" sign.  Offer a dollar and he'll snatch it up and stick it in his pocket.  Offer him a job and he walks away.  I have no obligation to help that guy.  People that give him a dollar don't think about how that hurts him more than helps him.  They give him the dollar to make THEMSELVES feel better -- wanting to think they made a difference in his life and he will be warmer or less hungry because of it.  As Mr. Alsbroooks suggests, that's "enabling" to his detriment.


The example is about the beggar on the corner.  The logic can be extended to most forms of social services.  You don't give someone all the food they need and expect good things to happen.  But if you provide the opportunity for people to grow their own food, good things could happen.  I have my fingers crossed!

Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Apr 10, 2014 15:38

               I take the opportunity to give at least $5.00 to anyone asking for it, the first time. I realized many years ago I am not God nor is it my duty to judge anyone, but it is my duty to help the lesser of my fellow man. As at least one of the lessons of "the bible" portrays, Geeeoooddddaa may take many forms to test your metal. Many years ago I saw a red-haired hitch-hiker south of Atlanta that looked bad. That weekend he was in the old walmart shopping center parking lot sitting next to a lamp-post. After boobied-half and I ate at oriental buffet, I drove up by him and gave him a $50.00. He looked more than just a little familiar. After we got home I realized he was ex-wife's former boyfriend. I knew him from Purdue. He was an idiot. Broke a keg pump once and drilled a hole in side-cork. That worked out well! After ex left for the umpteenth time, I was cleaning out her crap and found his old clothes he had stashed in her apartment at Purdue 9 years previously. Burned 'em. I should have mailed them to her folks where she had once again moved back to.

                  All govt. Social programs require qualifications. Temporary Social programs are temporary.

                  There are few examples of anyone obtaining long term govt. assistance by gaming the system. Except "trickle-down", of course, SS taxes not being levied on income over $100,000.00, off-shore tax havens, etc, etc, etc.

                  And where are those jobs promised from "trickle-down"? Or are the middle and lower bracket earners just throwing their money away by substantially subsidizing those better-off in the hopes of gainful employment? Talk about "takers". The top earners have enjoyed the lion's share of income improvements while the rest of US have been left with scraps. What "trickle-down" truly is Fascism whereby We the people support big business at OUR expense. That's right. "rayguns" was a fascist. Among other things.


                But go ahead and ignore the person in such dire straights they have to beg for money. Maybe you won't see them at the Gates of Heaven. Personally, I ain't taking that chance.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Apr 10, 2014 16:27

Here you go:


My step-brother is an insurance fraud investigator.  You would be shocked to know how many fraudulent disability claims there are.  (Private insurance disability -- as far as I know, Social Security doesn't much investigate fraud)Here you go:


Posted by: Allen Alsbrooks | Apr 10, 2014 16:52


No one said "ignore the person in such dire straits."  All I'm saying is if you go with your hand out expect to put out an effort for what you receive.

I have a society labeled "special needs" child. Before I was finally granted permanent full time custody he was being "taught" to be "handicapped" and  nurse on the taxpayers teat and various charities for everything he needed. All he had to do was continue to be "disabled."  He told me once he didn't have to do homework in school because he was a "special needs kid."  Well after I returned from orbit we had a conversation about "special needs" and "disabled" citizens.

Once I got him away from the enablers that thought process has changed. My child has 2 working arms, 2 working legs, 2 good eyes, and as any parent of a teenager will tell you selective hearing. He was graced by the Father with Autism/Aspergers.  To me this must means he will face different challenges that you or I. It does not mean he needs to be clamped on the tax payers teat. In the 3 years since I've had him full time he has become involved in sports, A/B honor roll, learning to drive,  one of the best volunteers and hardest workers.

OH and Fascism is just as detrimental to a society as Socialism.

Posted by: Scott Lilly | Apr 10, 2014 16:54

Mr. Alsbrooks just became the Mayor of this conversation.  THAT'S the American way that I know.

Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Apr 10, 2014 22:47

            Mr. Alsbrooks;

             How fortunate your child was to have you. Unfortunately there are many not so. As We the people must equally protect "All persons" assumption of innocence, We are not allowed to pass judgment on those passing required qualifications. "Socialism" generally effects Society from the bottom up. "Fascism" as "trickle-down" affects Society from the top down. "Equal Protection" is a Constitutionally protected Founding Principle based on the Deistic notion "That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights...."

              If anyone care to investigate, I believe you will find the funds needed to investigate fraud were with-held by Congress.

                However, anyone who witnesses fraud perpetrated on US. may file a complaint. Annimously(sp) if necessary. Anyone. I have busted two State troopers and a local cop for inappropriate action. We are a republic after all.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Apr 11, 2014 07:59

Mr. Zimmerman, the assertion here is that there SHOULD be more like Mr. Alsbrooks.  Our efforts should be to encourage and insist that people adopt the perspective Mr. Alsbrooks uses to overcome challenges -- not to "enable" folks to be able to be "clamped on the tax payers teat". (So to speak.) 


If there are "hundreds of people in need through church feeding programs" that stand to benefit from this community garden program, encourage and insist that they come out to contribute.  If they are physically unable, then come out at least to cheer on those that are physically able.  If they are just unwilling to contribute, then I would suggest they really aren't "people in need" -- like the beggar on the corner who will walk away from a job offer.

Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Apr 11, 2014 08:48


                  Should and could ain't reality.

                  Volentary efforts to help anyone in need cannot cover everyone.

                   Temporary assistance programs are temporary. There is no case whereby anyone needing temporary help can permanently do so without proper qualification. The very idea that anyone is "clamped on the taxpayer's teat" is not just merely not true but offensive as is the ill-liberal un-Constitutional  Judgmentalistic idea that somehow those better-off should pass judgment on those not. While Jimmy Carter's program is exceptional and does not in any case pass judgment on a person's plot in life, it does require they participate to the best of their ability. To that end OUR "safety nets require any person qualify as to what their situation is and how We can help. These programs are desiegned to help anyone in temporary need. We the people have no means thru OUR secular Constitutions to pass judgment in any way shape or form. Nor should We.

                     There are clear instances whereby We the people are supporting people not in need who have not done anything in return. "Trickle-down" is such a thing. This ill-liberal program was the idea of "rayguns" to return wealth to those too greedy to part with it to begin with. It has worked very well in that the wealthy have gotten much wealthier and the middle and lower income earners have not while at the same time having to pay into a tax system that pays the wealthy to be "job-creators" as well as a tax code that encourages outsourcing of OUR factories and jobs. What about the 2.1 trillion that is being held in tax havens that We know about?

                 Apparently the admonition to "Judge not..." is lost on you.

                 As well as the Founding Principles.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Apr 11, 2014 09:21

Mr. Zimmerman:  What is the length of time any person can receive food stamps?  Can one still receive food stamps if they spend "their money" on cigarettes?  Can one still receive food stamps if they work for cash under the table?  Can someone use food stamps to pay for a lobster dinner?  (


What is the length of time any person can receive Section8 housing?  Can anyone receive government housing assistance even if they can pay for a TV and subscriptions to cable or satellite?


What is the length of time Social Security Disability can be drawn?  Did you watch in the news video I posted that reporting improvement to a condition that allows Social Security Disability is a voluntary action on the "honor system"?  Is it REALLY conceivable that 1 in 20 Americans are legitimately receiving a disability check?  (So says the senator on the posted video.)  Do you have an idea what that does to an economy?  So many people have to pay for all those disability checks -- their taxes do that instead of building roads or paying police.  And those receiving checks inappropriately cannot pay into the system that is intended for those that truly need it.  Quantified, $25 BILLION going to inappropriate recipients while at the same time those that receive the $25 BILLION are not paying into the system.


The government and all it's citizens ought to encourage people to be self-sufficient -- not dependent on government assistance programs.  Why are government assistance programs always asking for more funds and expanding their reach?

Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Apr 11, 2014 10:07

                  As I have previously said, there are qualifications for temporary assistance. As well as permanent. You are quite free to do your own research.

                  You may find the monthly statistics here:

                    Most of the people that receive SS benefits have paid into the system for years. Take those out and the money they have paid in and that would be a clearer picture. What about all those that have paid in for years and years and thru no fault of their own except death, receive nothing? Nothing! What happens to that money?

                      Brother in law recently passed. He was a preacher drawing SS, etc. His wife, my wife's sister, is not of age to draw his SS. Won't be for some time. She was groomed to take care of him. And so she did. All her adult life. Now she has no income whatsoever. Never been alone or on her own. No marketable skills. And she is herself disabled. Bad knee. Obese. She can apply for SSI. Not SSD. Social Security Disability is only for those who have paid in and is prorated as such. Supplemental Security Income is for those not having paid in but are in need. Don't know how much it will be or if she will qualify. She will probably have to sell her trailer/stuff small in value as they are, and move into govt. housing if she qualifies. If not, a family member.

                Considering her parents "enabled" the situation she is in, she ought to move into her mother's house. Except that the Devil herself couldn't stand it.

                  Why are We engaged in "trickle-down" programs favouring the alreddy wealthy?  Why are We paying "vulture capitolists" to "harvest" OUR businesses and outsource them overseas? Why are We not collecting on the trillions of dollars held overseas to avoid OUR taxes? Why are We not leveling the playing field of inheritance by allowing those more fortunate to inherit large amounts of wealth/power while not contributing one ounce of energy to achieve it. Shouldn't even the wealthy have to do something to achieve it?

           When all are paying in proportion to profit gained, the very idea of getting ahead by working to achieve it, can be realized. When there is no hope to pull themselves out of their birth-circumstances. there is little incentive to try.

               "When all are equal in their rights, there is no jealousy" Thomas Paine.


Posted by: Scott Lilly | Aug 31, 2016 19:53

"Please keep us updated on the milestones on this effort" -- How did this work out over the years?  "Lessons learned" might be valuable.

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