Today we talked to Lynn Pegg, coordinator of the Sand Hill Community Garden in West Asheville, NC.
What is the name of your garden/organization and where are you located?
Sand Hill Community Garden- 58 Apac Drive, Asheville NC 28806 (Located at the Buncombe County Sports Park) Sand Hill Community Garden is maintained by Buncombe County Recreation Services. www.buncombecounty.org/parks
Can you tell us about the history / formation of your garden?
In 2010, the North Carolina Recreation and Parks Association put out a grant request to each of the 100 counties Parks and Recreation Departments in NC to create a community garden at a park location. Funding was provided by Nourishing NC, Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC and North Carolina Recreation and Parks Association. Buncombe County submitted a grant to receive funding to start a community garden at the Buncombe County Sports park, which is located in the Sand Hill Community of Enka, with several nearby neighborhoods. The location of the garden is situated near the entrance to the park and visible from Sand Hill School Road.
The Buncombe County Parks and Recreation Department sent out post cards to neighbors who live within the Enka community. The Buncombe County public schools district of Enka was used for the mailing. We held a public meeting at Sand Hill Venable Elementary school to gage interest and start recruiting volunteers. By early February of 2011 we had a group of 10-12 volunteers who were excited and ready to start the community garden.
The site originally housed the old Sand Hill Venable Elementary School so quite a bit of site preparation had to be completed. A soil test was done and soil amendments were added to bring the soil up to a level to produce vegetables, herbs and now many varieties of native flowers. The grant we received allowed us to purchase a tool shed, many hand tools, seeds and a permit to connect to Asheville City water system. All the work to get the garden’s first planting in the ground was done by those first volunteers. Since that first year, the Sand Hill Community Garden has increased the number of harvested, donated produce each year. In 2020 1,280 lbs. of fresh produce was grown and donated to those in need in the Enka community. Weekly donations are made to Montmorenci Church’s Food Pantry and Snow Hill Church’s Food Pantry. Previous years donations include MANNA Food Bank and ABCCM Food Pantry in Enka. Included with all these donations, each garden volunteer takes home fresh produce for their own consumption.
How many people would you estimate get to eat the fruits and vegetables grown on the plot?
Over 30 seasonal volunteers share in fresh produce harvested. Donated produce goes to over 300 community members between the locations that Sand Hill Community Garden donates to.
Tell us what a typical week looks like – what do you do? What do your members do?
I am actually the liaison between Buncombe County Recreation Services and the Community Garden Volunteers. I continually look for grant opportunities that will support the community garden. Collect and disseminate the data from the garden and report to Buncombe County management. Help facilitate meetings of the garden volunteers.
The garden is supported by volunteer work and management. Seeds, starts and other needs for the garden are mostly obtained by donation from other gardens and agencies. The garden members have a “garden leader” who plans out the growing season. They map out what kind and how many vegetables will be planted in each row. The garden leader delegate tasks to other gardeners each week. Sand Hill Comm. Garden has several regular, long time garden volunteers who have stepped up to take on specific roles. We have a person who maintains watering and our group email list. Another person is in charge of getting the grass in-between the rows mowed each week. SHCG has been fortunate to have many volunteers continue with the garden who were present at the very first planting of the garden. Over the course of the last 10 years our garden leader had extensive experience in horticulture, which helped get the garden to where it is today. Her knowledge is endless. Starting in 2021 SHCG will have a new person taking on the leadership role. His experience with gardening, like our previous leader, is extensive and the garden members are pleased to continue under his guidance.
A typical week for the SHCG: After the initial planting has taken place, beds are weeded 2 to 3 times weekly. Edging is done as needed to keep the pesky Bermuda grass at bay. Beds are checked weekly for watering needs. The garden has an irrigation system so the water can be turned on for several hours at a time when needed. When the vegetable matures harvests are done twice a week, weighed and documented and then taken to the donation sites. Garden volunteers may take produce as needed for their families. Donation harvests take place on Monday and Thursday mornings. Typically, SHCG has 2 designated work days for the larger group to come do the tasks that are needed. Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings. Volunteers are welcome at the garden at other times when their time allows. SHCG requests that those taking home produce try to give at least 2 hours of volunteer time each week.
Say someone wanted to start a new community garden. What is your advice on how they might begin?
Find a location that has access to water. Water will be the biggest cost for a community garden. A church or community park may work well. Consult a Master Gardner with Buncombe County Cooperative Extension office. They have a wealth of knowledge and love to help new gardeners. Visit other community gardens. Each is a little different in how they operate.
We know available land for community gardens can be scarce, do you have suggestions for how interested folks can get matched up with available land?
Again, a Church may have access to plots of land and be willing to help. Possibly approaching some of the larger housing complexes going up. They may be willing to allow some gardening for the residents. Another option may be Buncombe County Agriculture and Land Resources, part of the Soil and Water division. They have connections to local farmers and farm land.
Do you garden? What do you like to grow?
My family has a small garden. We usually just plant the easy to grow basics, tomatoes, green beans, squash, cucumbers and peppers. We’ve tried to grow corn in the past, but the Crows always get our seeds.
How and when did you become interested in growing plants?
As a child, our family had a garden every year. Although I didn’t work much with it, I did learn what plants grew well in our area. I’ve learned a great deal over the years, especially being a part of the Sand Hill Community Garden.
How does acting as the Garden Coordinator compliment (or not) your day job?
I get to meet many new people out in the community, not only with Sand Hill but other local community gardens. I enjoy being outdoors and spending time at the garden is peaceful and relaxing.
Do you have a favorite garden that you recommend for folks to visit who are interested in community gardens?
People should go visit Root Cause Farms in Fairview, previously called The Lord’s Acre. They are just fantastic! Also the community garden at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church is great, SHCG is fashioned after that garden style. Dr. John Wilson Garden in Black Mountain is another great location. Their garden has plots that are rented by people and part of each gardeners harvest is donated to a local food pantry.
If folks are interested in supporting your gardens, what are your needs and how can they help?
SHCG is always looking for new volunteers. Donations of seeds, plants starts and money are always welcome. You can donate money to the Sand Hill Community Garden by visiting the Buncombe County Recreation Services webpage and click on the donation link or by check, mail to: SHCG C/O Buncombe County Recreation Services 46 Valley St. Asheville NC 28803.
We hope folks will stop by the garden any time and visit!