Kara Kilpatrick working the tomato patch which is a part of the Quillen College of Medicine plot in the Carver Peace Garden Tuesday afternoon. All the food from the Quillen plot is donated to the ETSU Buc Pantry or Good Samaritan Ministries. Tony Duncan/J
Now in its sixth growing season, the Carver Peace Garden, located behind the Carver Recreation Center in Johnson City, is not only proving to be a successful area for harvesting food but is also establishing deeper roots in the community.
The garden, started by master gardener Sam Jones, is a fenced-off section of plots community members can rent each year to grow food for themselves, as well as the community.
See a photo gallery of the garden at the end of this article.
In the past, the garden has weathered some adversity, from heavy flooding to theft and vandalism, but Jones said this year has been their best season yet.
“I don’t know if it’s been because of the abundant rain, which can cause havoc as well as be a blessing. I’m not sure if it’s because our soil is slowly but surely beginning to improve or just (having) more dedicated gardeners,” she said. “We’ve not had hardly any theft or vandalism, which I’m happy to say. We’ve really had a good season this year.”
Jones said this year’s garden plots are manned by 18 individual gardeners, as well as three groups of gardeners.
She said one of the groups is a group of East Tennessee State University James H. Quillen College of Medicine students.
“This is like their fourth year of growing,” Jones said. “They donate all their food to a local food pantry. There’s probably six or eight of them that kind of take turns taking care of their plot.”
She said another group that has taken on a plot this season is a group of kids, who call themselves 1:7.
“It’s a group of Christian kids (who) are working with minority and lower-income folks to help them grow food,” Jones said.
She said a group of women currently going through a rehabilitation program have also been working in the Carver garden this season, learning different gardening techniques and practices.
Jones said a lot of different foods have been planted in the garden.
“Lots of green beans and tomatoes and squash, of course,” she said. “A lot of people have okra. One girl’s growing corn this year. Everything from onions to peppers to potatoes (and) cabbage. Certainly a wide variety that you could grow for your own table and put food on the table.”
Jones said the garden is slowly being integrated into the surrounding community and said she believes the neighborhood is starting to embrace their efforts.
“I get lots of questions, lots of positive feedback from the walkers that walk around that fitness trail to the kids (who) are playing basketball and (the) kids that are riding bikes that attend afterschool (and) summer programs there at Carver,” she said. “I think they’re all kind of proud of it. It’s become an accepted part of this community. It’s on the map now.”