Community Gardens form a Community of their Own in West Virginia

As the interest in and demand for community gardens grow, it is important that Extension Master Gardeners and Extension Service programs look at community gardens as places where great work and education can be done.  Here in Charleston, West Virginia’s capitol city, around 14 community gardens have sprung up in the last few years.

These gardens serve folks in diverse neighborhoods and diverse circumstances.  Each has an interesting story to tell and a diverse set of needs.  To better meet those needs, an area-wide organization, called the Kanawha Community Garden Association, was formed.

Partnerships create leadership and educational opportunities

This group allows me as the extension agent to serve a larger group of gardens and provide technical assistance to a larger group of people by assembling representatives from each garden under one roof.  This also allows for the assessment of where Master Gardeners may be needed to assist with projects and provide one-on-one education to community gardens.  Several participants have also been recruited to participate in the Master Gardener training course and have become stellar volunteers.  This allows for greater development of leadership among gardeners and the sharing of ideas and supplies across garden fences.

Earlier in the year, the association received a $7000 grant to provide leadership development training and build a “model” community garden in a neighborhood identified as needing (and wanting) a community garden.  All of this success has happened in a little under a year, thanks to the work of dedicated volunteers and the service of one very dedicated Americorps*VISTA member (who has since gone on to greener pastures).

Tour demonstrates community gardens successes and challenges

Kanawha Community Garden Association President Kelly Straight leads a tour through the Rock Lake Community Life Center Garden. Kelly is the leader of the garden, which was converted from an old community pool and putt-putt golf course.

Recently, the West Virginia Food and Farm coalition contacted the association to set up a tour of community gardens to allow other people to learn about the successes and challenges of community gardens in our area.  The tour group met on a warm, sunny October Sunday afternoon and found their way around town to a number of different gardens.  They have a wonderful article titled Lessons Learned and Report: Kanawha Community Garden Tour you may like the check out.

Tell us about community gardens in your area

We’ve recently heard from Connie Schulz and others about community gardens in North Carolina and we’d love to hear from others, as well.

  • Do you have community gardens in your area?
  • Is there an area or state wide organization or network where community gardeners can gather?

Share your stories or successes (or challenges)  in the comments.

John Porter
WVU Extension Service Agriculture Extension Agent
Charleston, WV

One Reply to “Community Gardens form a Community of their Own in West Virginia”

  1. Hey John…..this is a great thing you have done here! There is much renewed interest in revisiting the Rules & Bylaws too…..Kate and Kasey have mentioned this in just the past week. James Bush is willing to help too. I wish I could continue on….but I have a new church calling that demands all my time and thought. I still have photos, the list of gardens….stuff we used for the Sustainability Fair in my computer files. Just ask if you need anything I might have stored. Keep the fire under the Association! Myra

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