WILLIAMSON COUNTY MASTER GARDENERS ASSOCIATION
The main campus of Franklin First United Methodist Church located inside the Mack Hatcher north loop at 120 Aldersgate Way in Franklin is host to an amazingly large garden operation, The Giving Garden.
What started as a pumpkin patch for the kids on the expansive property has grown to five acres with five individual fields. The level of sophistication of the operations can be witnessed when you wander the site.
According to Phillip Francis, Williamson County Master Gardeners Association Project Coordinator (pictured above), in 2015 The Giving Garden Board voted to implement sustainable production methods. This practice helps preserve the nutrients in the soil and results in plants with fewer insects and disease.
Only organic chemicals are applied and cover crops are used in the fields.
The 48 raised bed construction for Field 1 was completed in 2016 and filled with compost from the City of Franklin’s Compost Facility. They also have a cold frame and dedicated compost bins.
The goal is for most of the plants placed in the garden to be grown from seed in the onsite greenhouse. In 2017 the goal was to start and grow in the greenhouse 6,000 vegetable, flower, and herb plants.
There is an incredible amount of science and research into each decision made regarding the garden.
- The staff has developed their own recipe for the greenhouse seed starter mix.
- Three water tanks, 10,000 gallons, 5,000 gallons, and 1,550 gallons have been installed and will be used to harvest water from the two barn roofs for irrigation in addition to the well.
- Meticulous records are maintained daily regarding plant conditions, insect sightings, water application through the irrigation system, produce harvested, produced distributed, and volunteer assignments to identify a few.
- The bees selected for the property are Solitary Bees which are the most productive. The collect both pollen and nectar.
- Clover is planted in garden aisle ways to assist in building up the soil.
The Giving Garden is administered through a Board of Directors with the traditional positions, i.e. president, operations director, treasurer and secretary. The managers of the Flower Garden, Herb Garden, Distribution, Communications, and Greenhouse each hold a position on the Board. The monthly meeting determines the goals, generates Department Reports, and provides a Financial Report. The Garden operates under the Outreach Ministry of Franklin First UMC.
The goal is to produce 29,000 pounds of food annually. That should mean 8,000 tomatoes, 4,000 Irish potatoes, and 4,000 sweet potatoes, among other crops. It is estimated that 500 individuals are provided produce weekly during the growing season. In addition to the wonderful food that is distributed, herbs are sent out with fresh produce. In the fall the herbs are dried and packaged for distribution. The flowers are used for church arrangements and delivered with the fresh produce. The distribution system supports the Board’s goal. As produce is harvested it is weighed and recorded. Records on the field, the row, and any other noteworthy items are logged in the distribution area. The Giving Garden distributes food to more than 20 organizations. Each has a scheduled day to arrive to pick up their produce or to have it delivered. In addition the Franklin Farmers Market donates 10,000 – 15,000 pounds of food annually that is distributed through The Giving Garden Distribution System.
The property has an interesting past. Daniel McMahon received the property in 1799, which was originally part of Davidson County, as a land grant from the United States government for his service in the Revolutionary War. He arrived in 1799 from North Carolina when he was 48 or 49 years old. McMahon died in 1838 and is buried on the property. There was a time when the property was the home to avid horse racing fans. As a horse farm, the owners enjoyed hosting harness racing. The 1.5 mile track can still be strolled along today. Visitors are able to witness the tilt of the track, observe the inner track which was filled with water on the day of the races, and imagine the revelry associated with a day at the race track.
While the Master Gardeners Association reports in excess of over 1,000 hours of service annually to this project, there are also many other groups, including area youth groups, that contribute to the goal of providing fresh food for those in need in Middle Tennessee. Community volunteers are welcome to join The Giving Garden from mid-April to October. The schedule is Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 8 – 11 a.m.
The Mission of the Williamson County Master Gardeners Association is to improve the lives of Tennesseans through research-based, horticulture education, while promoting environmental stewardship, via community volunteerism.
For additional information regarding this project or other Williamson County Master Gardening activities and events, please check the website at www.wcmga.net.