Published on 03/03/20

Project GROWL garden opens rental plots to the community

By Maria M. Lameiras

The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Fulton County South office and South Fulton Master Gardeners are offering area residents the opportunity to rent garden beds created as part of a youth-development grant in an effort to continue to contribute to the surrounding community.

Community members are invited to rent beds in the new GROWL Fulton County Demonstration and Teaching Garden for their own gardening projects. 

Located at the Camp Fulton-Truitt office in College Park, Georgia, there are four plot sizes available for one-year rental periods for a non-refundable fee of $35 to $55 per year depending on size and type of bed. The assignment of beds is "first-come, first-served" basis and is subject to availability.  

The garden was first constructed as part of Project GROWL, which was funded by a Children, Youth, and Families At-Risk (CYFAR) grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The project’s goals were to enable youth to acquire work-based life skills to equip them for a knowledge-based and creative economy; to expose youth to an accurate, deeper understanding of the food, fiber, agricultural and natural resource systems affecting their urban communities; and to empower youth to visualize themselves as contributing members of society and to leverage their knowledge, skills and abilities to influence other individuals, groups and organizations.

When Project GROWL concluded in August 2019, UGA Extension sought a new way to keep the garden going, said Fulton County Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent Melissa Mattee.

“We have been working to revitalize Camp Truitt, which is located along the road near the Atlanta airport. We had local people who drove past and saw the 4-H Garden Club and GROWL Club kids working in the garden,” Mattee said. “We got a number of calls from people who were interested in working in the garden themselves, thinking it was a community garden. It seemed like this was a natural way to keep the garden going, seeing that there was a need and interest in the community for a community garden. The kids love it and we wanted to keep it going and expand the reach by getting community buy-in.”

South Fulton Master Gardener Shirley Shivers, who taught in Atlanta schools for 38 years before retiring in 2003, was tapped to serve as GROWL Garden coordinator. Fellow Master Gardener Robert Chappelle designed the garden, which was built to take advantage of the landscape and with water and soil sustainability in mind.

“Before the grant ran out, we talked about the sustainability of the garden itself,” Shivers said. “With all of the money, time and energy that has been invested in the garden, Robert and I refused to let it go. The design concept is very good and we felt that school groups or other groups in the community could use the garden for teaching or community outreach.”

While anyone can rent a garden bed, the program is seeking youth and senior citizen involvement in the garden. Currently, Shivers and Chappelle work with Fulton County 4-H agent Katherine Delp, who brings students from the Fulton Fresh 4-H Club to the garden to explore gardening, agriculture, nutrition, health, and cooking with hands-on activities and programs.

“This is a teaching garden, and Master Gardeners are available to help show what they can grow in this area and be successful, whether that is an herb garden, a pollinator garden, row crops, fruit or vegetables. We have a garden classroom and we are reaching out to the community for the first time and trying to get people involved and teach them about what to grow, when to grow it and how to grow it,” Shivers said. “We do have a vision, not just for  the present, but thinking long term about the contribution this garden can have to the community and the classes and workshops we can offer.”

Currently, Master Gardeners offer classes at the GROWL Garden on the second Saturday of every month at 10 a.m. and are on-site every Saturday from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. to answer questions and assist as needed.    

To learn more or to reserve a garden bed, visit the Fulton County South Cooperative Extension office at 1757 Washington Road in East Point, Georgia, or call 404-762-4077. The garden is located at the Camp Fulton-Truitt office at 4300 Herschel Road, in College Park, Georgia.

Maria M. Lameiras is a managing editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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