published Monday, May 4th, 2009

Community garden trend takes seed in Dalton


by Kelly Jackson

Fast facts

About six plots remain in Dalton’s first community garden.

Learn more about the garden or sign up by visiting www.ugaextension.com/whifield and clicking on Agriculture & Natural Resources or calling the Whitfield County Extension office at 706-278-8207.

Anyone interested in starting a community garden may visit www.communitygarden.org for a step-by-step guide on getting started and more information about community gardening in general.

Source: Brenda Jackson, Whitfield County agriculture and natural resources agent for UGA Cooperative Extension

DALTON, Ga. — Dalton resident and business executive Jim Bethel planted a seed that has blossomed into something the whole community can dig into.

Mr. Bethel, CEO of J&J Industries, wanted Dalton to have a community garden, but he wasn’t sure how his idea would be received.

“Would people embrace it here where the land is relatively easy to get to?” he asked.

The answer came quickly, and Lakeshore Community Garden is the result.

Mr. Bethel introduced the idea to Dalton Parks and Recreation Director Ronnie Nix and Brenda Jackson, Whitfield County agriculture and natural resources agent for UGA Cooperative Extension. Within a few months the trio gathered input from residents, selected a site and formed a committee to oversee the project.

Residents like Virgelia Meek have signed up for a plot in the garden.

“I have a plot of land where my home is located, but my backyard has all gone to shade,” said Mrs. Meek, who is looking forward to “the green life” by planting and harvesting organic vegetables.

Mrs. Meek is not alone, as other community members who can’t garden on their own property have joined the effort.

Four weeks ago, Lakeshore Community Garden appeared as another expanse of grass. It is now a full-fledged garden thanks to many community members, Mr. Bethel said.

There are about 60 plots and participating families and the project is well on its way to nonprofit status, according to Mrs. Jackson.

Mr. Bethel said people participate for a variety of reasons.

“There are things going on all the way from people feeding their souls working in the dirt to actually having a productive garden and having fresh vegetables,” he said.

Denise Arnold and other participants in the Master Gardeners Program are embracing the opportunity to teach gardening skills to their neighbors.

“Gardening is something you share,” Mrs. Arnold said. “It’s multicultural.”

She also feels gardening can help people through difficult economic times.

“Knowing that you are going to have some food coming in is just a little bit of security,” Mrs. Arnold said.

Mrs. Jackson said carpet mills and the local housing industry have experienced recent strains, adding to the garden’s popularity.

“As we headed into spring, it became apparent that the need was even higher than expected, and I have gotten a lot of calls from people who have never gardened before, but are wanting to start,” she said.

Mrs. Arnold said the garden includes a “gleaners’ garden.” Additional crops are planted in beds on the garden’s perimeter to benefit the whole group or others in need.

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