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  • Jen McGivney

Growing a Community: The Impact of Gaston’s Community Gardens

I’ll let you in on a secret. We gardeners may look like an unassuming sort, in our funny gloves and hats and the knees of our pants perpetually brown. It may look like we’re just playing in the dirt, but most of us are up to something more.

Gardening, after all, is about more than growing plants. It’s about one person tending to a little plot of earth which then provides for many more people. In an economy that touts return-on-investment, we can’t do much better than a garden.

In this list of Gaston County community gardens, you’ll see that local gardeners are up to much more than what’s growing in their soil. These gardens represent community building on a deeply personal level: sharing land, growing food, educating the youth, connecting with neighbors, and serving those in need. Each of these community gardens makes the county a little healthier, a little greener, and a little more big-hearted.

Mount Holly Community Garden

126 North Main Street, Mount Holly

You’ll find plenty growing in the Mount Holly Community Garden. This garden offers 52 beds, including adaptive gardening beds for people with physical disabilities. But you’ll find more than produce here. In a garden devoted to wellness, you’ll also find people practicing yoga—one of the board members is a yoga instructor. You might even come across a cooking class in the garden—another board member is a chef.

Yet the produce and lessons extend farther than these beds. Gardeners are asked to donate at least 10 percent of their harvest. Last year, these gardeners met their goal of donating 2,018 pounds of produce to the Mount Holly Community Relief Organization, and this year, they’ll face a goal of 2,019 pounds. These gardeners even tend to beds beyond their own: They built a healing garden at the Cancer Center at CaroMont Health so that patients there can enjoy green spaces, too.

A coffee shop sits just across the street from this garden’s patio, and the two have become an irresistible combination to enjoy a drink with a view. “We’ve become quite the little gathering spot in Mount Holly,” says Melanie Black, the garden’s manager.

Mount Holly Community Garden
Mount Holly Community Garden. Photo credit: Scott Griffin

Gastonia Rotary Garden

320 East Franklin Boulevard, Gastonia

The Gastonia Rotary Garden has four goals: to feed the hungry, beautify the city, teach a new generation how to grow, and introduce new friends. The garden is made of 26 raised beds, some of which are tended by individuals, some by families, and others by community organizations. The produce harvested from these beds not only feeds those who grow it, but also the community around them: These gardeners donate some of their harvest to Off the Streets, Loray Girls' Home, the Highland Community, Crisis Assistance Ministry, and Cornerstone Christian Ministry.

The garden is abuzz—literally—with news in 2019. The Gaston County Beekeepers Association installed a new hive here, and the honey is already flowing. A new parking lot allows more people to come to the garden, whether they come to tend to their plot or to volunteer during harvests or cleanup days. Want to lend a hand? Follow the garden on Facebook to learn about opportunities.

Rotary Community Garden of Gastonia
Rotary Community Garden of Gastonia: Photo credit: Tom Hauer.

Belmont Community Gardens

7 North Main Street, Belmont

These gardens are in demand: People have been on a waiting list for a bed since they opened in 2014. Other than offering a place to grow, however, they offer a place to learn. The Belmont Community Gardens offer classes and events for gardeners, schools, scouts, and churches. This month, they hosted a live ladybug release event for the Cities of Belmont and Cramerton to commemorate Arbor Day. Along with being part of the event, attendees learned how ladybugs can be used as a natural pest control for vegetable and flower gardens.

The garden serves the local community in other ways as well. The group harvests rainwater from downtown rooftops with a cistern, saving the city both water and money. The garden is also a friend to bees and other pollinators: They have plantings specifically grown to attract pollinators, four on-site honeybee hives, and plans to create a milkweed bed to attract Monarch butterflies.

Belmont Community Gardens
Live ladybug release event at Belmont Community Gardens. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Taylor

Highland Community Garden

604 North York Street, Gastonia

Highland Community Garden
Highland Community Garden

The Highland Community Garden is part of the Keep Gastonia Beautiful initiative. The mission of the garden is to create fellowship, offer educational opportunities, and beautify the area. It features 18 garden beds that are open to residents of the community and surrounding areas for growing fruits and vegetables.

Cramerton Pollinator Garden

Central Park, Washington Street, Cramerton

This April, the Cramerton Community Committee embarked on a new project: a 40’ by 8’ pollinator garden in Central Park. Here, they’ll plant flowers like daisies, black-eyed Susans, coreopsis, and coneflowers that attract pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. In addition, logs and rocks here will become habitats for small animals and bugs. They’ve even had a hand-crafted bee house created for an additional welcome.

The committee’s careful planning has resulted in the garden being certified as a National Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. If you want to be a part of this project, the committee invites the community to join its planting day on April 27, 2019. Event details.

Bessemer City Community Garden

1303 North 12th Street, Bessemer City

This garden is a joint effort, combining the work and time of citizens, faith communities, local merchants, and the city government. All come together to grow food in these raised beds, with practices that minimize chemicals and produce high-nutrient vegetables and fruits. These 40 garden beds offer a place for neighbors to come together to grow food that helps to feed those in need in their community.

Bessemer City Garden
Bessemer City Community Garden

Educational Gardens

In addition to these community gardens across Gaston, there is one program run by Gaston County’s North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service that is dedicated to educating youth about the value of locally grown produce.

Healthy Harvest

Where does our food come from? It’s understandable why many children believe that food comes from a grocery store or from their parents’ pantry. This 10-week gardening program offers third-graders an education in the real roots of their food, teaching them where and how it is grown, and how healthy eating can make them feel better.

Classes are hands-on, allowing the students to learn by planting, growing, harvesting, and—of course—eating.

Healthy Harvest Program
Healthy Harvest Program

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