How does your community garden grow?

There’s a little slice of Raleigh that produces fresh food, educates people about healthy living, and offers opportunities for all community members. It’s a place that has been built solely by the community. The cost to maintain it is volunteer sweat and the donations from generous contributors. Well, I should really call it a little “wedge” instead of slice because I’m talking about the Wedge Community Garden, right in the heart of Raleigh!

Can you believe that urban community gardening has been around since the 1890s? So it’s definitely not a fad or trend! And I am even willing to bet that the concept dates even further back. Community gardens can be found in cities, towns, and neighborhoods all over the nation. In North Carolina, there are 163 registered community gardens that serve as school gardens, food bank suppliers, job training tools, therapeutic purposes, and so much more (and all of the above).

Wedge Garden Mural
The Wedge Garden Mural was created by NCSU student Lauren Caddick and sponsored by the YMCA.

Back in 2010, a few  members of the Hillsborough Citizens Advisory Council (HCAC) established its own community garden, called the Wedge at 214 Park Avenue, behind the Alexander Family YMCA on Hillsborough Street. It’s a unique garden because it is the only truly communal garden in our whole state, meaning there are no individual plots. Everyone works together, harvests together, and eats together using the same piece of land. The garden depends on its volunteers to make it all happen.

Summer garden veggies!
Summer garden veggies!

The garden takes as good of care of the community as the community takes care of the garden!

Volunteers come from the surrounding neighborhoods, but also nearby organizations like NC State, Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, YMCA members, AmeriCorps, NC Roots & Shoots, and many others that gave at least 579 hours in 2014. The Haven House alone has given the garden 21 Saturdays and 66 volunteers throughout the year.  Did you enjoy a cup of coffee from Benelux recently? You can feel extra good about that because the cafe donates its weekly coffee grounds to the garden.

Haven House Wedge Garden
Fall Planting with Haven House Volunteers

This amazing volunteer work reaped 270 pounds of food donated to Plant a Row for the Hungry over the summer, along with dozens of pounds of food for neighbors and Service Raleigh sponsors.  The Wedge features its own herb garden, given by the Fletcher Family of the Pullen Park Neighborhood, which has been used by the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle culinary school, City of Raleigh Community Services, HCAC, Pullen Arts Center, and many others.

Citronella
Citronella from the Fletcher Herb Garden

As much as the Wedge relies on its volunteers and in-kind donations, the garden also looks to the City of Raleigh for appropriations. One of the many benefits of our city’s Citizens Advisory Councils is that community based assets may apply for improvement funds. The Wedge did just that through the HCAC and was awarded $1000 which went toward wood and a pitchfork, topsoil, and various tools.

Are you interested in becoming involved in the Wedge Community Garden as part of your New Year’s Resolution? Whether the goal is to eat healthier or become more engaged with Raleigh, or both, vow to make 2015 the best year yet by making a difference in the community! Come by the garden on Saturday mornings to work with other volunteers and get yourself acquainted. No gardening experience necessary; the only requirement is the willingness to get your hands a little dirty. And don’t worry, it’s not all work and no play! Volunteers, neighbors, and garden members are invited to special events throughout the year including the Spring Planting Kick-off, a summer garden party, and pumpkin carving in the fall.

Raleigh Community Garden

For more information, email Shamsa at thewedgegarden@gmail.com.