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A garden grows in Carrboro

By Susan Dickson
Staff Writer
Every Saturday morning in a garden tucked off Hillsborough Road, a group of residents comes together to do a little digging in the dirt.

Cindy Shea and Bob Weickert check out the Kentucky pole beans in the Carrboro Community Garden. Photo by Alicia Stemper

The Carrboro Community Garden Coalition began in 2007 as an initiative of the Carrboro Greenspace Community Garden members, who needed a new space for their community gardening and found it on town-owned property adjacent to Martin Luther King Jr. Park.
Today, the half-acre is chock full of crops – all organic – tended to by the loyal volunteers who brave the weather weekly to care for the garden.

Coalition members have a wide range of gardening experience when they join – from that of a former farmer to no experience at all – and join for a variety of reasons.
Member Cindy Shea said she joined three years ago as a way to learn more about gardening, and to do so in a garden with great conditions.

“We’re able to raise so much more than anybody would in a backyard garden,” she said. “The conditions I have at the garden are so much better than I and other people have at home.”

“I like gardening and I like the concept of helping people learn how to grow food,” coalition steering committee member Bob Weickert said. Weickert joined the coalition about a year ago, though he’s been gardening for much of his life.

“My gardening goes back to when my parents had the victory garden back at the end of the Second World War … and we were gardening because we needed the food,” he said. “I have plenty of gaps in what I do know, but I can sure squeeze food out of the ground.”

One of the challenges the coalition faces is recruiting enough members to care for the garden, which needs a lot of work, especially this time of year. A core group of about 10 to 15 regulars tend to the garden each week, while others show up from time to time.
“There are some that are quite faithful and just love the heck out of being there,” Weickert said.

“We have a real dedicated core group of people, but we really need more,” Shea said. “People of all ages and abilities.”

Getting enough water to the garden is another challenge – especially this time of year. The coalition uses water from a nearby well, as well as water collected from two rooftop cisterns on sheds.

“It’s enough to make you pray for divine intervention,” Weickert said. “You can do everything except make it grow.”

Hue and Patrick Marlatt joined the coalition just a few weeks ago after researching shared-garden spaces in the area. Since they’ve started coming to the garden, they’ve helped with weeding, watering, harvesting and whatever else needs to be done.

Their work has paid off, Hue Marlatt said.

“You can take whatever you want,” she said, adding that she’d made a fresh salsa using ingredients grown in the garden. “It’s fun – it’s just really hot right now.”
Gardeners can share in all that is grown in the garden – not just what they choose to plant.

“If you happen to be the one that’s grown the eggplant, everybody gets a crack at the eggplant and you get a crack at the cucumbers and tomatoes,” Weickert said.
When there’s an abundance of food, the coalition donates it to TABLE and Farmer Foodshare, which provide food to hungry children.

“Out of a half-acre of ground, you can get a lot of produce,” Weickert said, adding that he hopes to recruit new members and thus increase production so the coalition can donate more food.

Tomatoes, peppers, onions, okra, potatoes, zucchini, asparagus, pole beans, melons, blueberries, peaches and cucumbers are all grown in the garden, and members are adding new crops every year. Coalition member Justin Telech planted hops this year, and plans to brew beer with his bounty.

By working in the garden, Telech said he collects enough vegetables and fruits that he doesn’t have to purchase much fresh produce this time of year – which is especially significant given that he’s a vegetarian.

For more information or to join the coalition, visit grassroots.wikia.com/wiki/Carrboro_Community_Gardening_Coalition, email ccgc@riseup.net – or just show up ready to work on Saturday morning.

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