Registration is now open for “Making Your Garden Grow,” a conference on building and sustaining school and community gardens in Arkansas. The event will be held Friday, May, 3 at the CALS Children’s Library and Learning Center in Little Rock.
The city of North Little Rock’s Fit 2 Live Initiative is one of the event’s cosponsors.
To register, visit MakeYourGardenGrow.eventbrite.com. The cost of attendance is $10 and includes all sessions, lunch and an afternoon garden party and seed swap.
Across the state, a growing number of communities, neighborhoods and schools are developing gardening programs to foster healthy eating, increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, build civic engagement and preserve the tradition and skills of small-scale gardening.
Making Your Garden Grow is designed to help gardening enthusiasts, teachers and principals, business owners, mayors and other leaders learn how to establish successful team gardens in their own communities. Participants will get to share ideas with other gardeners from across the state and learn practical skills to make team gardens successful.
Workshops at the event are intended for gardening pros and rookies alike, with opportunities to learn from peers and experts. Topics will include horticultural skills like crop selection, irrigation and compositing, along with organizational skills like volunteer management, fundraising and program development.
Besides North Little Rock, Making Your Garden Grow is presented by a team of partner organizations, including Arkansas Community Foundation, the Childhood Obesity Prevention Research Program at Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute, the Delta Garden Study, Feed Communities, FoodCorps Arkansas, the National Center for Appropriate Technology and the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.
Bernadette Gunn Rhodes, North Little Rock’s Fit 2 Live Coordinator, said the city has awarded grants for community gardens.
“The Fit 2 Live Community Garden Grant Program is funded by North Little Rock’s City Council as part of
an effort to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables across the city,” Rhodes said.
One such example of a community garden is located at the corner of 54th and Allen streets in Levy. Rhodes said the city owns the land which sat vacant. The only purpose it served was to remind motorists and area residents that Levy isn’t the most prosperous area in town.
Now instead of a vacant lot in an economically-challenged area stands a community garden with square, wooden frames containing soil and growing vegetables.
“We believe it helps our community look better,” said Lora Matthey-Hicks of Neighbors United for Levy.
Hicks said the community garden is helping more people in the community communicate with one another, get to know one another and making Levy look prettier and friendlier.
Hicks added that she has noticed more neighbors looking out for one another. For example, she and her family was out of town for a few weeks and other community garden members helped look out for her family’s garden.
In addition, a neighbor who lives nearby doesn’t have anything planted there but has taken it upon himself to keep the grass cut.
“You get to know your neighbors better,” Hicks said.
Rhodes said the city loves the grant program because it promotes eating healthier foods and exercise.
“It takes work to plant a garden,” Rhodes said. “And then after what you plant grows, you have something to show for it.”