Gardening Together: A way to make food work


Gardening Together: A way to make food work

Tucked away off West Meade Boulevard, residents of Franklin Estates Mobile Home Park will try a new experiment this spring when they plant a one-acre garden mostly for its Spanish-speaking community as an additional food source.

Tucked away off West Meade Boulevard, residents of Franklin Estates Mobile Home Park will try a new experiment this spring when they plant a one-acre garden mostly for its Spanish-speaking community as an additional food source.

Allen Franks, complex manager, and three residents on Thursday morning stood together in the small white leasing office, which sits in front of the freshly turned muddy ground on the back of the property. Volunteers and the park’s garden committee were finally able to start turning the ground this week, after a two-week weather delay.

Resident Ana Alcala, 47, has become one of the primary point-people for the garden, using what she knows about growing plants from when she lived in Mexico. She has now lived in Tennessee for the past three years.

“I am most excited about the children learning how to harvest and take care of the plants,” Alcala said through a translator. “Kids don’t understand how plants can provide or care for something that can provide.”

Franks said the community has wanted to cultivate the extra land on the property for the last four years. Although, it wasn’t until this year, with the use out of outside help, that Franks could make that possible.

“A lot of them are used to growing their own food that are partial to the Latino countries where they are from,” Franks said. “And for some of them, they are stuck going to the Latino grocery stores where it’s more expensive.”

Debbie Rainey, United Way of Williamson County staff member, said the idea for garden came to mind when some Full Tummies Warm Hearts counselors were hearing it was complicated for some families to eat healthy on a tight budget.

Since then, the group researched the concept and found funding for the project with a grant from the Tennessee Recreation and Parks Association. Tractor Supply has also agreed to help through the donation of a tiller along with the aid of other volunteers who want to help coordinate the layout of the garden.

“It really does take a village,” Rainey said. “This is the first time we’ve done anything like this. It may end up being a model for other locations if this goes well.”

The county’s University of Tennessee Agriculture Extension office also contributed with advising the plan, educating about growing seasons, and suggesting what plants grow best in Middle Tennessee.

“We advise on how to grow, and if someone wants to know what’s going on with their plant that’s when I step in,” said Amy Dismukes, Horticulture Extension Agent. “For them, we did a soil analysis and gave them guidance on what will do well in this specific region.”

The garden will include a variety of plants ranging from potatoes to carrots to radishes. The plot will also have raised boxes in order to grow different spices. Rainey said the community had complete input of what they wanted to have on their plot.

With the help of the garden committee, anyone in the community can have any of the produce regardless of whether they have had the ability work in the garden.

ALTERNATE SPRING BREAK

In the complex’s clubhouse, a group of around 20 kids sit and write into small journals about what they want to see out of their futures.

In front of them, a blackboard with white chalk figures addressed different types of foods and what they look like.

Liliana Zendejas, a Poplar Elementary School third grader, said she had a lot of fun this week and learned a lot about plants.

“We got to plant cucumbers, and that’s my favorite vegetable,” she said. “We also planted lavender, and that was my other favorite.”

This effort was all apart of an Alternative Spring Break opportunity through United Way that targeted volunteers to help create the garden and educate kids from the Williamson County-Franklin-Fairview Boys and Girls Club about growing food.

Kalie Printz, a United Way volunteer, created the curriculum this week — activities like the Amazing Food Race and a Top Chef competition — and also took field trips to figure out where food came from.

The kids were divided into small groups with helpers from different university students across the Midwest. Plus, one Kansas family even flew into Nashville to contribute.

“I’m a huge gardener, so this was just the perfect thing to do for my kids’ spring break,” said Sean Hart, a Kansas businessman. “It was a good way to give back, and to show my kids how someone else lives.”

Emily West covers Franklin for Home Page Media Group. Contact her at emily@franklinhomepage.com. Follow her on Twitter at emwest22.

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