Sowing the seeds for garden giving

By Rachel Robles, Lifestyles Editor | Feb 12, 2014
Photo by: Mannie Crone THE WINTER GARDENERS — A group of Master Gardeners braved the cold Monday to build a garden. Pictured from left are Rich Buell, Jim Geenan, Tom Steffel, Tim Mathews, Marcia Tate and Rhonda Rowars.

Amid freezing temperatures on a dreary, wet winter day, a handful of Master Gardeners disregarded the snow and ice to build a garden.

That’s right; on Monday, Feb. 10, during the beginning of what looked to be a week-long adventure in poor driving conditions, a few members of the Haywood County Extension Office gathered at the Canton Branch Library, steeled themselves against the cold and set out to build the new Giving Garden.

The Giving Garden project was the result of a joint brainstorming session.

“We have this wonderful space behind the library that wasn’t being used for anything,” said Mannie Crone, manager of the Canton Branch Library. “I came up with the idea for the garden with Adult Services librarian Kathy Olsen of the Waynesville Library when we were planning our Adult Summer Reading Program for this summer. I had read about California’s Book-to-Action program, where program participants read books on a topic and then engage in a community service project related to that topic. The theme for this year’s Adult Summer Reading Program is going to be Sowing Seeds.”

The plan is to use the garden as an educational tool.

Olsen is starting a seed library at the Waynesville Branch Library. Participants in this year’s Adult Summer Reading Program will be asked to visit the seed library at the Waynesville Branch Library, volunteer in the Giving Garden, attend gardening-related and cooking/nutrition-related programs, and read books on gardening, said Crone.

In partnership with the Haywood County Master Gardeners, the Giving Garden will be composed of raised vegetable beds, with the harvest going to The Community Kitchen in Canton.

“We got in touch with the Master Gardeners and spoke to Tim Mathews,” said Crone. “We told him about our idea and he got really excited about it because he wanted to do something in this part of the county.”

“It’s a good opportunity for us,” said Tim Mathews, horticulture agent for the Haywood County Extension Office. “There’s a huge interest these days with local food and food security and being able to know where your food came from. The Extension is really involved with the local food movement. This is another good opportunity to have a presence here in Canton.”

For the garden’s first year, the library is starting small. This year they’ll have two 20x4 foot raised beds for vegetables and two 2x2 foot potato boxes. If the garden is successful, the possibility is open for expansion.

“We’ll start small, try to build momentum, and get people interested,” said Mathews. “And through demonstrations, people can see what they can do in their own backyards.”

The Community Kitchen gave Crone a list of things they tend to run short on.

“It’ll be a good partnership between the Extension and the library and the other partners that we’ll pull in,” said Mathews.

An educational series is being planned as well. Making use of the library’s conference rooms, classes on gardening, nutrition and preserving are in the works.

“We’ll be doing a series of gardening classes,” said Mathews. “Julie Sawyer, family and consumer science agent at the Extension office, will do healthy eating classes and food preservation.”

“We’re hoping that the first program will be in mid-March, said Crone. “The plan is to have at least one class per month.”

The prospect of hands-on learning and engaging the community is a bright spot for Crone amidst such a dreary winter.

“This should be a fun summer,” said Crone. “Something to look forward to with all this snow.”

And as for why the Master Gardeners braved the cold?

“Anybody who knows me … it was on the schedule for today,” said Mathews. “I don’t cancel very often.”

The Giving Garden project is made possible in part by The Friends of the Library and Sow True Seeds of Asheville who is donating the seeds for the project.