Residents of Carroll Terrace took advantage of the beautiful weather Wednesday morning with a spring planting event to signify the season opening of their community garden.
The Carroll Terrace Community Garden was built in 2004 and had its first growing season in 2005. The garden was initially started by Melissa Stewart, the assistant program director for West Virginia State University Extension Service. Stewart had also helped establish the community garden at Orchard Manor and noticed that several of the gardeners lived at apartments in Carroll Terrace.
“We started think that, on the side of what we were really trying to do, it probably would be better done in a more localized population like [Carroll Terrace],” Stewart said. “Here we can engage individuals who are probably more stationary and looking for something to do.”
The garden consists of 40 3-by-5 plots which residents sign up for each year. There are also 4 10-by-10 plots that are used and maintained by all the residents and grow some of the plants that take up more space such as strawberries, squash, zucchini and cucumbers.
All tools and supplies for the garden are provided to the residents free of charge. Each year they are given a list of the fruits and vegetables provided for that growing season and are then allowed to pick the ones they would like to grow in their plots.
Alisa Holyfield, who lives on the 12th floor of Carroll Terrace, has held a plot in the community garden for three years and said working in the garden is one way she relaxes during the day.
“I was raised on a farm, so this type of work is similar to what we did every day,” Holyfield said. “I also have really bad allergies and sinuses and the doctor told me to come down here and the oxygen that all the plants release would help with that. When I’m down here, I feel like I’m cured.”
As part of the Charleston-Kanawha Housing residential facilities, Carroll Terrace provides housing to low and moderate income residents. By growing their own food, residents are able to save money while also eating healthy. Stewart said the residents have also become possessive about the garden.
“There is more community engagement than ever,” Stewart said. “We used to be the ones coming in and setting up times to sign in but now they have really taken ownership of it. This is their garden.”
Debbie Knox, a resident of Carroll Terrace, has participated in the community garden for the past 10 years. For five of those years, she has served as Stewart’s garden assistant. She helps residents sign up for their plots, ensures that everyone receives the correct plants and also organizes work duties.
Before becoming a garden assistant, Knox did not know much about gardening. In fact, Stewart said there was one occasion where Knox tried to eat a tulip bulb because she thought it was a turnip.
“When I first started, I didn’t know anything about gardening,” Knox said, “I had planted a few tomatoes before but that was it. It’s been a learning experience.”
Knox said her favorite part about the community garden is everyone working together and seeing surprised faces when their plants grow. This year she will be planting tomatoes and banana peppers.
The garden has been beneficial to the residence of Carroll Terrace as well as the surrounding community. It has also been added to the East End Garden Showcase.
“Many have the mentality that people in low income housing are lazy,” Stewart said. “But this dispels all of those myths because they get out here and they bust their butts to keep this garden running. This program is helping to change those stereotypes and shows that everyone is different but that doesn’t represent who they are as a person or their willingness to work.”