Community gardening with Harry’s

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ROSWELL - Harry’s Farmers Market continued its support for everything locally green by hosting a panel discussion about community and school gardens on June 21.

The panel was stacked with notable local experts on the issue, such as Chris Robie, the environmental coordinator for High Meadows School in Roswell, and Jonathan Hosseini, the owner of Kenari Farms, a farm company in Roswell.

The need for education in the classroom about gardens is evident, with many children today not knowing where their food comes from.

“When asked where a tomato comes from, all you get back is a stare,” said Robie. Many children think their vegetables come from the store, not grown on a vine, she added.

According to the panelists, there is a big push in the country to get back to the basics of life, reintroducing children to the outdoors.

“We need to reconnect with the environment,” said David Cox, a member of the Alpharetta Tree Commission and responsible for such green activities as the Alpharetta Arboretum and the community garden. “The garden is the best way to reconnect people back to their environment.”

A question was asked of the audience at Harry’s – how many of your mothers or grandmothers had a vegetable garden? Nearly every hand went up. “It’s almost like we missed a generation,” Robie said. The trick, said Ashley Rouse of Farmer D Organics, is to start children learning about it when they’re young and they carry it with them as they get older.

Several parents were interested in how to get their child’s school to grow its own garden.

Erin Croom, of Georgia Organics, said that starting small is the best idea to get everyone on the same page. “You need to figure out why you want a garden. Is it for academics? The outdoors? To combat obesity?”

Gardens can be used for a variety of academic uses. Firstly, they get kids outdoors, but they can also be used for biology, natural science, genetics, even math and economics – some schools have the children raise the crops and go to a local farmers market and sell them.

Getting support for it can be difficult, both among the parents and the administration.

“Not every school has environmental studies,” said Robie. “But [if a garden is made] a school needs to integrate it into their curriculum.”

“And you have to realize that not everyone will be interested,” she added.

And not only uninterested, but possibly even against having a garden in the schools or the community.

“There is a lot [of resistance],” said Cox. “The most critical thing about it is aesthetics.” He said that most communities in the area were concerned about having a community garden simply because it might affect property values. “What you’ve got to do is prove that you’re willing to commit,” he added. By going above and beyond the requirements and putting a lot of effort into his garden at Wills Park, Cox and his team were able to not only make a visually appealing and functioning garden, but it has begun to affect the surrounding park. For instance, a chain-link fence nearby was recently replaced with an equestrian-style wooden fence in order to match the one surrounding the community garden.

Husseini agreed. “Most people are excited there is a farm in the middle of the city, but some people are anxious about what it means to the city, to their subdivision home values, to their community.” What needs to happen is gardens and gardening need to be stressed as fun and entertaining for the whole community. By encouraging cities to utilize empty space for gardens, whole neighborhoods can get involved.

For more information on community and school gardens, visit www.eeingeorgia.org. For more on Harry’s and their efforts in the community, visit www.wholefoodsmarket.com.


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