DescriptionMy oldest and I have been eyeing the Kirk of Kildaire Community Garden for a while now, and finally took the leap to volunteer there last weekend. The garden is on the property of Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian Church in Cary, North Carolina. Community gardens are pretty awesome for several reasons:
-The ability to meet people in the community that you might not normally interact with.
-Access to fresh, organic, and local produce – can’t get more fresh or local than gardening it yourself.
-The ability to get your hands dirty and have the great feeling of a hard days work.
We got ready that morning, got our sunscreen and work clothes on, and grabbed a bunch of tools. I had to spend ten minutes convincing my oldest not to wear a dress. Obviously she had not worked in a garden before. As soon as we showed up, the Garden Manager, Rich, took us on a brief tour of the garden where my oldest pulled a carrot right out of the ground. I realized I’d never even done that before, and what a cool opportunity it was for her to get to actually feel the food, and know it grows in the soil. We also sampled arugula and cilantro straight off the plants, a very foreign concept for her since we don’t have our own garden.
We planted potatoes in these awesome raised chicken cage beds. (Highly-technical term by the way). Basically there was chicken wire wrapped in a circle and anchored to the ground. We laid down a bed of straw, then a good amount of rich, black soil, then it was time for the potatoes. I was amazed that we only needed to use old potatoes that were growing ‘eyes’ to start new potatoes. WHO KNEW? I cut the potatoes up so that there were at least two eyes on each potato section, then we buried them in the soil, covered that up with more soil, then watered the whole thing. As the potatoes grow you continuously add more soil to keep them covered until they are ready to pick. Crazy easy, you just have to know what you are doing. I am completely going to grow potatoes in my backyard.
This community garden is really well run. Rich does an awesome job of motivating volunteers by doling out age and ability-specific work tasks and keeps everyone working and moving to get the job done.
Question: How did the Community Garden get started at Kirk, what year was it started, and what was the impetus?
Rich: The idea for the garden was floated by a couple of folks, specifically Kevin O., it was his baby in the summer/fall of 2011, but work didn’t officially start until late winter 2012. We had our first growing season with 6 beds in the spring of 2012. One year later, the garden has 15 beds. The garden is a prime example of how the church is a grassroots-driven congregation. From one person, one vision, and embracing new ideas and creativity we have created a wonderful asset to the church and the surrounding community. You don’t have to be a member of our church for 20 years to present and implement an idea. We’re a very open, creative-thinking congregation.
Question: I saw a lot of signs for the "Plant a Row for the Hungry" initiative, how much produce goes to the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle?
Rich: "Plant a Row for the Hungry" is a part of the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle and is a key part of our mission. It’s very important to us that we give back a portion of what we grow to those less fortunate, so we donate at least 50% of what we grow to them. There are convenient drop off points at Whole Foods and Logan’s Trading Company. We’ve recently been looking into other programs to donate to as well.
Question: How many people do you normally see volunteering?
Rich: It depends, normally we average somewhere between 6-12 volunteers per workday. Workday hours are Wednesday evenings from 5 pm until dark and Saturday mornings from 8:30 am until 10 am.
Question: Is the garden 100% organic?
Rich: Yes – for the most part. The garden’s mission is to be as organic as possible – “to minimize the chemicals we use, we put in our bodies, and leach into our environment.” We are organic in terms of what we fertilize and spray. There may be a time when we really can’t beat the bugs, then we will have to resort to inorganic chemicals. We’ll give up some plants to keep organic, but producing food is an important part of our mission so we don’t want to sacrifice on that.
Thanks to Rich, Kevin and the Kirk Community Garden members for their time educating me on how things work. We definitely will be going back there for another work day soon.
A version of this story was originally published by Amanda Baley on Foodie Mama Talks.