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Griffin Garden Aims to Grow a Healthier Community

March 10, 2014
Griffin Fairmont community members now have better access to fruits and vegetables thanks to the city’s Healthy Life Community Garden.

Named after the former African-American vocational school, the Fairmont community in the city of Griffin is classified as a food desert by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Food deserts are areas in which “at least 500 people and/or at least 33 percent of the census tract’s population must reside more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store.” In its second year, Griffin’s Healthy Life Community Garden in the Fairmont community has proven invaluable as a means of addressing nutritional deficits and fostering community between newer and older residents.
With the participation of the grassroots Educational Prosperity Initiative, Griffin Housing Authority, UGA-Griffin, the Spalding County Cooperative Extension, the city of Griffin and area residents, the Healthy Life Community Garden is working to address childhood and adult obesity by increasing access to fruits and vegetables and educational programs. Programs cover nutrition, gardening techniques and food handling and preparation. Gardeners have planted tomatoes, bell peppers, banana peppers, onions, beets, radishes, turnip greens, spinach, collard greens and chard. In addition, Griffin recently donated fruit trees that will bear pecans, pears, figs and apples.
“It’s been quite an exciting reaction because residents of all ages come out and bring their friends to play in the dirt and grow something,” said Patty Beckham, director of the garden. “Children who aren’t used to seeing, nonetheless eating, what we grow are surprised how much they love our fruits and veggies. We had a girl whose mother made squash for the first time after coming to this garden. I got so excited when I found that out because that’s why we are here.”
Beyond healthy residents, the goal is for the garden to facilitate a healthier, civic minded community. The Healthy Life Community Garden has served as the catalyst for community events including open houses at the garden, healthy trick-or-treating for Halloween, a newly formed neighborhood watch and neighborhood association, and mentoring programs in partnership with the school system.
In its inaugural year, the Healthy Life Community Garden’s has taken significant steps to fulfill its statement of purpose to “grow fresh produce, raise beautiful flowers, and cultivate healthy, caring neighborhoods.”