Nestled behind Grace Episcopal Church and Bailey Court Apartments in Stanardsville community members will find tomatoes, peppers and even basil beginning to sprout.
The new garden, dubbed the “Unity Garden” after Psalm 133:1, will benefit families in Bailey Court, a low-income housing complex, by teaching gardening skills as well as how to use and make various recipes with items in the garden.
Barbara Nye, outreach coordinator for the church, said the idea for a community garden finally came to fruition after Stanardsville resident Schuyler Muller, who lives adjacent to the church and Bailey Court, repeatedly asked her to start the project.
“She kept bugging me at every single one of our community neighborhood brunches. She’d come in and say, ‘When are you going to do it? I’d love to get my hands in the dirt.’ So finally I said we have 11 acres of church grounds. I can get someone to do this,” Nye said.
Nye admits that she was hesitant about beginning the garden, noting that she didn’t know anything about gardening and most church members were too old to work in a garden. However, Nye called a friend who was willing to till the overgrown 50-by-40 plot for the garden. Planting began on May 21.
Muller said the Unity Garden is a way for the community to come together.
“There’s kids back there in the apartments, and [it’s] a good way to try to get them and their parents involved in something – just trying to do something to better themselves,” Muller said. “It’s good relaxation, too, to come over here and get away from all the hassles at home and garden for a second. You can eat it and make different recipes with it. It helps, it really does.”
Faye Anderson, family nutrition senior program assistant for Virginia Cooperative Extension in Fluvanna County, assisted in applying for the $1,500 community garden grant after visiting Bailey Court during the church’s “Love Laundry” event.
“Love Laundry was the first time I was doing something over here in Bailey Court and before that I didn’t know Bailey Court existed. Since I’ve worked in the community before, I knew about the garden and somehow I got in touch with [the church], so I said, ‘Here’s this grant, let’s see if we can get the money.’” she said. “We wanted to continue to work in this community, especially so people know that the extension exists. Not everyone is going to garden, but there’s a lot of free programming for kids and for adults, too. All of that can come from the extension.”
The church in a July 1 meeting proposed spending the grant funds on two rain barrels, a wheelbarrow and food demonstrations. The group would also like to use a majority of the grant to offset the estimated cost of $3,000 for fencing to keep deer out the garden. All of the grant funds must be spent by the end of September, and the grant money cannot be used to purchase food.
The grant proposal states that, “Greene [Virginia Cooperative Extension], Grace Episcopal Church and Bailey Court Apartments will all partake in maintaining, harvesting and preserving produce grown in the garden.”
The trio has also tentatively planned educational food demonstrations including makeyour-own-salsa and an herb workshop. A representative from Bailey Court Apartments did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the partnership.