Spring time is (community) gardening time

Published 8:40 pm Thursday, February 25, 2010

by Elizabeth Burdett of the Saluda Community Land Trust
The Robinson Community Garden, on the corner of Henderson and Poplar Street in Saluda, will soon be tilled for a third year of planting, harvesting, and companionship. The first year Saluda Community Land Trust (SCLT) sponsored the garden it was a trial year to see if the community really wanted a garden.
Even though a summer drought meant much work with little produce, committed gardeners and their children said, “Yes, we want a community garden next year.” The City of Saluda graciously provided a water tap the second year in case we had another drought.
Eight faucets were installed around the garden for easy access, although it turned out 2009 was the wettest summer any of us can remember. The 2010 garden will again have access to city water to insure successful gardening.
What is the impetus that makes a community garden happen? There are seven community gardens being tilled in Polk County that I know about; there may be more. Two of those, at Cocula Restaurant and Isothermal Community College, were initiated by the Polk Co. Agricultural Development Board as a visual example of how beautiful landscaping can be edible too, mixing flowers and vegetables together in a place where many people will see them.
The other gardens were started by the communities themselves, to bring back what was best in the community in years past but may have been lost for a while. It usually starts with a thought, and that grows if a group acts on that thought.
I’ll tell you how the Robinson Community Garden came into being since that’s the one that I know about. SCLT came into being because a very important piece of farmland near town came on the market. No one wants to see that land converted into housing or a motel, so the newly formed community land trust came up with a plan to sell small garden plots to local people, and then try to find a buyer for the remainder of the tract. It was a great plan, but it did not work for a multitude of reasons.
However, through the process we became aware of how beneficial a community garden would be for so many people who live on a wooded Saluda lot, with no place to grow anything.
At a SCLT meeting one afternoon, Dave Prudhomme, a board member, said, “Why don’t we just go down the street and ask Pat Robinson if we can lease her vacant lot for a garden?” That’s what we did! Pat Robinson agreed to lease the garden space for nine months of the year in exchange for SCLT assumming the liability.
The Polk County Community Foundation gave us money to pay for that first year’s set up, including water tanks and a system to collect rainwater from the neighbor’s roof. SCLT’s commitment was to do the initial legwork and see if the community wants to keep it going. It worked. SCLT still sponsors the project, but now it’s truly a community garden.
Neighbors working outside together do more for community empowerment and peace of mind than most other community activities or stress relievers available to us these days. Think about starting up your garden plot now. Surely the snow will melt soon.
For more information call Saluda Community Land Trust at 749-1560 or the Polk Co. Ag. Development Office at 894-2281.

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