A brief rain shower did not stop 50 people who gathered on March 14 to mark the start of a community garden in Decatur for low-income and refugee DeKalb residents.
“It’s appropriate that it rained today,” said Decatur Mayor Bill Floyd, during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Decatur Kitchen Garden. “[The garden] needs sun and rain and it needs God’s help.”
Located on the grounds of the United Methodist Children’s Home at 500 S. Columbia Drive Decatur’s Kitchen Garden will be used to grow produce that will feed families and generate supplemental income for the urban farmers.
“The garden will host more than an acre of urban market garden space, to be cultivated by culturally-diverse community producers from our local refugee communities and nearby neighborhoods,” said Susan Pavlin, director of Global Growers Network. “A range of annual and perennial foods, with an emphasis on specialty cultural crops, will be grown at this community market garden site.”
It will have 30 plots for community producers and organizers said they already have a list of 80 people interested in working the plots. Seedlings and some tools for the garden will be provided by Global Growers Network.
Floyd said over the next 30 years, the garden will furnish the community with food “and the opportunity to learn where that food comes from, how its grown and how healthy locally grown food can change your life.”
D. J. Khaling, a Bhutanese community organizer, said many of his fellow refugees will benefit from the garden.
“There are [refugee] people between the ages of 45 and 65 [who] have never been to school and …are finding a very tough time trying to find a job in the United States,” Khaling said. “To those…[it] would be very a good opportunity for them to come again back to farming like they used to do when they were in Bhutan.
“They could at least do something,” Khaling said. “They could make some income from this farming. They would be happy emotionally, psychologically… to get again another chance to go back to farming.”
Dr. Elizabeth Ford, director of the DeKalb County Board of Health, said the Decatur Kitchen Garden is a good start.
“We’re going to have access to fresh fruit and vegetables so our children don’t have to run by fast-food places and eat things that are loaded with salt and other preservatives,” Ford said. “There are children in this community who don’t even know what fresh vegetables taste like.
“We really need to have one of these gardens in every neighborhood in the county,” Ford said. “I think it’s going to be an opportunity for [residents] to have the feel for what fresh produce tastes like, how easy it is to grow, how much better it is and how less expensive it is.”
Ford said the garden is another weapon in the fight against obesity.
“The more opportunities we have to provide communities with fresh fruits and vegetables, I think the faster we’re going to get rid of this obesity epidemic that we’re suffering from so badly in Georgia,” Ford said.
Through a Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control, the county Board of Health has provided $60,000 for the garden.
“When you think about what the cost of chronic illness is, $60,000 is a drop in the budget,” Ford said. “For two diabetics you’re going to spend that in six months.”
The garden is a collaboration with the United Methodist Children’s Home, Oakhurst Community Garden Project, Edible Yard & Garden, the city of Decatur and DeKalb County Board of Health; it is expected to be ready for planting by April 21.