Outreach’s Garden of Hope leads to gardening, cooking classes

Published 11:20 pm Monday, July 3, 2017

The idea for the Thermal Belt Outreach Ministry (Outreach) Garden of Hope began in 2009 as a collaboration between Outreach, Lynn Sprague of the Mill Spring Agricultural Center, and Kathleen Carr with Western Carolina Community Action. The program was designed to offer low-income families the opportunity to receive needed tools, seeds and fertilizer for a successful vegetable garden. The program also gave families the opportunity to learn new skills, strengthen family ties and build a network of community relationships.

 What started as a collection of planting boxes cared for by community members has grown into a full-blown garden that produced more than 600 pounds of fresh produce last year. This produce was directly distributed to clients through our food pantry. We also visited local farmer’s markets last year to make sure we always had fresh, locally grown produce to distribute during the growing season.

 We have also recently added a variety of gardening and cooking classes as well as a Harvest Dinner to create a sense of community around the growing, preparation and consumption of locally grown fruits and vegetables. New this year are boxes of flowers, berries, and a broader array of herbs to help add a little sugar and spice to our tables!

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 Local farmer Horace Tipton and his family have contributed their expertise and efforts to include thorough soil preparation, a watering system and a weed prevention program to help with maintenance. He and his family also contribute their own produce to our pantry and encourage other farmers to participate as well. Did you know, per the 2015 PATH Act, that farmers can receive a tax deduction for donations to local food pantries? Yep, put a few dollars back in your pocket by giving back!

 If you are passing through Columbus this summer, swing by Outreach at 134 White Drive to check out the garden and see all that we do here. If you would like to learn more about our mission and programs, please visit us online at www.tboutreach.org.