Learn more about Giving Garden, the Carrboro Family Garden, Baldwin Community Garden and San Isidro Labrador Community Garden
By Emily Davis
In 2014, the Environmental Stewardship Team at University United Methodist Church envisioned a place to grow healthy, fresh food for those in need. Out of their efforts grew Giving Garden. The 5,000-square-foot plot, located along Umstead Drive just 1.5 miles northwest of the Franklin Street church, is run year-round by volunteers, including many nonchurch members. Beehives, apple and eucalyptus trees, blueberry bushes and pollinator plants around the garden’s perimeter are also tended. A majority of produce is donated to TABLE, which provides healthy food and nutrition education to children in Orange County. “We specifically asked TABLE what produce recipients liked most, and we grew them if possible,” says Ann Booterbaugh, Giving Garden’s founding volunteer.
According to the Rev. Justin Coleman, University UMC’s senior pastor, many volunteers are from the international community and live in rentals without access to land. Half of Giving Garden is dedicated to their use, resulting in a unique array of international crops, from lavender to bok choy. “Giving Garden offers a beautiful glimpse of what it means to be a human family committed to the flourishing of our neighbors,” Justin says.
THE CARRBORO FAMILY GARDEN AT MLK JR. PARK
This garden aims to make growing healthy food a family affair. Carrboro or Chapel Hill residents with children under 18 pay an income-based annual fee to cultivate 100 square-foot plots. They share tools, and a few fruit plants, with the adjacent Carrboro Community Garden. Both gardens thrive on community connections – donations of leaf mulch from the Town of Carrboro, wood chips from The Treeist and compost from CompostNow. The Carrboro Family Garden recently expanded in size and added five new beds, and garden manager Jeanette O’Connor expects to build three more in the coming months. She says the land fills an important community niche and encourages the sharing of agricultural wisdom. “About a third of the Family Garden [participants have] been there for years, and plot neighbors will pass that knowledge along to one another,” she says. Jeanette adds that carrots are an annual favorite of their youngest planters since, “the kids think it’s endlessly exciting to pull carrots out of the ground.”
BALDWIN COMMUNITY GARDEN
Located within Henry Baldwin Park, this cooperative project serves the Northside neighborhood. It was started by area residents who petitioned the Town of Carrboro and the parks department for space in the park. Eric Allman, a member of the garden and the Carrboro Community Garden Coalition, helped start the gardens in both Henry Baldwin Park and MLK Jr. Park.
The Carrboro Community Garden Coalition helps people who want to start a garden with the help of their knowledgeable members. Eric says enthusiasm for learning how to cultivate one’s own food has only grown. “The interest is there, [but] I think space is a limiting factor in Carrboro,” he says. Interest in obtaining one of Baldwin’s 31 plots especially rose during the pandemic. “We have a long waitlist that grows every year,” he says. Those who get a 4-by-8 bed also share in the responsibility of two community plots from which produce, including potatoes, black-eyed peas and green beans, is donated to local food banks, like Marian Cheek Jackson Center’s Heavenly Groceries.
SAN ISIDRO LABRADOR COMMUNITY GARDEN
Located at St. Thomas More Catholic Church, this garden celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Its namesake, St. Isidore the Laborer, is the patron saint of farmers and gardeners. “Probably most gardens don’t have a patron saint,” says Bob Weickert, one of the founders of the 0.04 acre plot. The selection of the Spanish saint was fitting. For the past several years, San Isidro’s produce has been freely distributed to the church’s large Spanish-speaking congregation.
From April to November, attendees of Saturday and Sunday Spanish Mass services are greeted in the entrance hall with tables of freshly picked produce. “I try to grow a lot of peppers, like jalapeños, habaneros and poblanos because they’re really popular,” Bob says. He and his team welcome volunteers of all experience levels: “From ‘I’ve been gardening for 40 years’ to ‘I don’t know the difference between a turnip and a radish.’” Bob says. “The more people I can get to grow their own food, the better off they are.”