It’s garden time again and some folks in the community have come together to nurture their love of growing things while also helping others. The Madison County government recently gave the Master Gardeners permission to put a community garden between the library and the senior center on Hwy. 98 East of Danielsville.

The Master Gardeners designed the garden layout and applied for a stimulus fund grant through the non-profit ACTION, Inc.

“We decided to call the community garden the Victory Garden, after the gardens everyone planted in their yards during World War II to help provide food,” Master Gardener Victor Johnson said.

Saturday morning, 20 volunteers showed up, gardening tools in hand, and planted half the garden plots at the community garden. Master Gardeners, Rotary Club members and other volunteers worked shoulder to shoulder in the brisk spring air to turn the soil and bring the garden to life.

Josh Chandler and Frank Ginn brought front-end loaders to do the heavy work, and had six piles of rich topsoil (over 80 cubic yards, or six dump truck loads) reduced to four planting stations for 16 garden beds in about an hour, according to Johnson.

Ginn and Roy Gandy then ran a roto-tiller over the beds several times.

“Believe me, tractors are nice; I did just two beds by hand tiller in the same amount of time,” Johnson said. “During the dirt moving and tilling, we removed two pickup beds of rocks from the topsoil.”

Volunteers moved in to do the finish work, using rake and shovel to spread the beds into shape and to remove any debris from the topsoil so that planting could begin.

“We filled half the garden – 18 flats of greens that were donated by Midway Farm Supply — in eight beds (about 1,200 plants),” Johnson said. The plants included green beans, lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, green cabbage, red cabbage, collards and arugula.

Johnson said the community garden has two main purposes. The first is to provide fresh vegetables for the Madison County Food Bank (through ACTION, Inc.) and any group of individuals who will tend a family garden plot, while donating at least ten percent of the produce from their plot to the food bank. In addition, the Master Gardeners hope the garden will serve as a teaching tool to help educate folks about how to grow their own food.

The Master Gardeners will help manage the project with help from the food bank and the Madison County Senior Center. The senior center has agreed to allow use of its public water, Johnson said, and senior center members will be able to work the garden and help with management and scheduling. Grant funds will allow installation of a buried waterline with freeze faucets and drip irrigation systems for the plots, hiring of two or three part-time garden managers, and repayment to the senior center for water use.

“The senior center has a greenhouse and does a plant sale fund raiser each spring (started April 21), and we hope the greenhouse can be used to grow transplants for the community garden during the off season (for next year),” Johnson added. “The county is providing the land for the Victory Garden and will provide mulch from its road and recreation departments.”

The garden got a somewhat late start this year while waiting on the $8,287 grant (part of Action’s Green Partners grant program, using Community Service Block Grant/American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Funds).

“This was the first time stimulus funds were used for a community garden project in Georgia, thanks to the perseverance and foresight of John Scoggins at ACTION, Inc. in Athens,” Johnson said. “John decided that if this funding is supposed to help those with lower incomes or who lost their jobs, what better way than to use it to help provide fresh food to the local Food Bank.”

A garden manager (or managers) position is planned to coordinate scheduling and planting, and to oversee (and participate in) watering and weeding. During the growing season, the managers will work part-time a total of 28 hours per week at $8 per hour as an ACTION employee under the grant through Sept. 15. Managers must qualify as ACTION employees, pass a drug test, and have verified annual household income under $21,660, plus $7,480 for each dependent, according to Johnson.

ACTION hopes to hire the garden managers by the last week of April. To apply, contact ACTION, Inc./Madison County Food Bank director Bobbie Rooker at 706-795-2180 to schedule an appointment for an interview.

“I think it’s gonna be a great asset to the community because it will supply fresh vegetables to the food bank clients, and to see the community working together, with so much donated for the project has been just wonderful,” Rooker said. “And in addition, we’ll be providing a couple of jobs.”

Victory Garden partners who have signed on to help so far are: ACTION, Inc. (funded through CSBG-ARRA), the City of Danielsville, Colbert Ace Hardware, Danielsville Hardware Georgia Metals, Madison County Board of Commissioners Madison County Chamber of Commerce, Madison County Hardware, Madison County Master Gardeners Association, Madison County Rotary Club, Madison County Senior Center, Midway Farm Supply, Rick Owenby and South Fork Contractors, Inc. These partners have donated everything from labor and funds to plants, topsoil, water and other items.

A garden tool drive is also underway to acquire gently used garden tools for the Victory Garden. Those wishing to donate tools or implements may bring them to the Comer Farmers’ Market on May 1, or drop them by the Madison County Journal office or behind Graham Law Firm in Danielsville during business hours.

For more information on the Victory Garden, call Victor Johnson at 706-795-2184 or Bobbie Rooker at 795-2180, or drop by the garden Saturday morning, April 24 (but be prepared to work). “And bring coffee and doughnuts,” Johnson said.

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