ROSEBORO — A few months ago, there was nothing but rows of dirt in a vacant piece of land in the heart of town.
Now, it’s filled with green leaves and plants that are keeping volunteers busy. For Shawn Hobbs, that a good thing. The project, “digDOWNTOWN” is now bearing fruit and vegetables after the community garden was approved by Roseboro Commissioners in the spring. Some of the crops grown include cucumbers, zucchini and tomatoes.
As the director of the the town’s Main Street and Small Town’s Economic Prosperity Program, he’s proud that the land is helping people for free by sending bags of food to residents, neighbors and places such as the local Meals on Wheels programs for seniors, the Autumn Wind Assisted Living Center. Produce may also be picked up at the garden’s gate. Since the start, it’s estimated the garden contributed to more than 200 meals. At the moment, there’s no plans to charge.
“For the first year, we wanted to show the city that it could be done, attract people and provide education for kids,” Hobbs said. “You should see the kids who come out, especially the ones who’ve never seen a a tomato on the vine.”
Hobbs hopes grants and more funding will follow for educational opportunities for year-round opportunities. Now, the garden is going through a rotation period with plans for crops such as pumpkins and peanuts for the fall. All of the greenery from the other plants will go into a compost and sit for several months before coming back as fertilizer for the garden. Next season, the volunteers would like to have a pumpkin patch event with hayrides for children.
“The kids will be able to have a hayride around town,” Hobbs said. “It’s something for the community. There’s not a lot going on in town, so a part of this is getting people to come together, see something new and have a sense of community.”
During the holiday season, volunteers would like to sell Christmas trees inside the garden’s fence and have a place for children to visit Santa Claus.
“We’re going to make a winter wonderland for them around the Christmas and holiday season,” Hobbs said.
Another goal is to add more gardens and beatification projects around Roseboro to make it an “art and garden city.” He added that it matches the town’s motto of “Take Root and Bloom.”
“Roseboro is only a one square smile city, so hopefully, I can have five of these in five years,” he said. “One in every neighborhood and in every corner of the city.”
With the development of the Highway 24 bypass, Hobbs stressed the importance of having more community events and places such as the garden.
“The businesses are hurting and struggling in town, so sense of community is a big thing for us because there’s not a lot going on,” he said. “Every time we get a chance to get together and hang out in the shade, it’s a good time to know what’s going with your neighbor, pass on some good food and have something going on.”
Hobbs spent time working in the garden Friday morning with volunteers such as Lloyd Spell. He grew up in Roseboro and returned after 30 years and believes that it provides inspiration, while promoting nutrition and health.
“I think it shows how nutrition can really have an impact on your community,” Spell said. “It really creates a sense of community and camaraderie in terms of coming together and celebrating nature and nutrition.”
Spell rented one of the raised beds available at the garden. Some of the crops he planted included kale, squash, tomatoes and lettuce. Raised beds may be rented at $75 renters are responsible for maintenance, with volunteers who provide service such as watering plants. Jenifer Campbell enjoys riding her bike to the garden and volunteering.
“For me, it’s like meditation,” Campbell said. “It’s a de-stresser, I love to come down and just help out, weed and just be in tune with nature. I was raised weeding beds and hated it. But when I got older, I went right back to it. I love it.”
The garden is seeking more volunteers such as Campbell to help with the garden to help with task such as pulling up weeds, planting, watering in the morning and evening. Products such as mulch, seeds, organic fertilizer, lumber, and other materials to build a shed. D.J. Matthis, a volunteer, spoke about watching the garden explode with growth. He remembers a time when grass wouldn’t grow on the land after it was abandoned 15 years ago after a building was demolished. But that changed through the efforts of Hobbs and others.
“It’s crazy what a little bit of love and togetherness will do,” Matthis said.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-592-8137. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.