Last year I reached out to some farmers to see if they wanted to help me turn the back space into a community garden. It was a vision I’ve had for a long time. Growing up there was a business nearby that sold cut flowers from their farmland and I have fond memories of visiting it and dreaming about owning a business like that one day. I also grew up with grandmothers and extended family members (not to mention my own mother) who were extensive home gardeners. I have vivid memories of the columbine’s blooming at my grandmother’s house or the path filled with daffodils next to the walkway at my great-grandmother’s and the smell of muscadine grapes as we sat on her screen porch for family meals. At my own home we had apple trees and a big garden in our yard. I was given my own garden early on where I took an interest in herbs and the magical qualities that plants have for healing.
I am a big believer that nature heals and that we all need safe, sacred and beautiful spaces to retreat to. I think as the spaces around us become more developed, as our anxieties rise, we need this even more so. A few years ago I experienced severe burn-out and I took a year long sabbatical from Gather Goods Co, during that time, thinking I might just open up that flower farm, I worked part-time at a greenhouse and I experienced first hand the deep and powerful healing properties of plants and the value in being outdoors no matter the weather.
With that in mind, I sourced a space for the new version of Gather where I could bring a community garden to it as well as a shared office space, where I could collaborate with others who had this desire and interest (and were maybe looking for land to work) and create a second level to the serene and intentionally nurturing space that is Gather Goods Co. – I am thrilled to have this young farmer collective making this space useful and special and over time I know it will become a truly inspiring and restful space that will benefit the community not just in being a spot to visit but also in benefitting those facing food scarcity and local food pantries.
If you are local and looking to get involved, let me know. For many months now this collective has been working the back space there and slowly growing it and they weren’t yet ready for volunteers, now they are. This year we are hoping to share more behind-the-scenes goings-on. They provided me with this blog recap to learn more about what they’ve been up to this past year:
Gather Garden Update from the farmers:
In the heat of NC summer an opportunity arose. A message from Gather Good’s founder, Michelle, found its way to us via a garden listserv and after many calls and with excitement the team formed. We had a team of six members willing to put time and energy into the garden space. Between the team, we have several years of different types of farming experience (traditional, permaculture, indoor, native landscaping) ~ Devin, Jenna, Steven, Mia, Michael and Helena were taking on this new adventure. Without further ado, it is my pleasure to introduce to you the Gather Garden Crew!
I’ve been enamored with farming since I was a teen. I set out on a path to pursue farming as a lifestyle that would bring me closer to the earth. I’ve been able to engage that lifestyle through both paid and volunteer opportunities. Before COVID-19 I was pursuing hands on education through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), a program that facilitates work trade opportunities with organic farms. I was only on the road for 9 months before COVID-19 set in but the experience I gained was invaluable. Since I’ve resettled in NC, I’ve continued to further my knowledge of agriculture and explore the intricacies surrounding food and broader food systems.
I feel whole when I get to interact naturally with this treasure of a planet I am on. Playing in the dirt sparked for me in 2016 when I created a garden at my childhood home and soon after found myself in community with earth centering individuals and teachings that I cherish to this day. I advocate for eating fresh/local as it is a testament to the well being of my physical body, mind and spirit. Supporting all those doing healing work and doing my part to give back in this reciprocal relationship of life and love with Mother Earth is a responsibility and an honour. Sharing tools on emotional intelligence, dismantling white supremacy and taking small steps to homesteading all in community are deep values of mine. My bunny, Carter, cherished relationships with chosen family, birds, the community garden in East Raleigh I have the pleasure to play in, trees and water keep me sane. Favorite veggies: brussel sprouts and mushrooms!
My name is Michael, I first got introduced to farming/gardening through my passion for healing. It became obvious to me that growing your own food and medicine is the best thing you could do to heal yourself, your community, and the Earth. That journey started in 2014, since then I have apprenticed and worked at many farms and gardens learning as much as I could directly from the awesome farmers and communities themselves. Now I still grow my own food but have moved more into growing native and medicinal plants. I am currently trying to increase the diversity of the native ecosystem in our beautiful state by starting a Native plant nursery. As well as working at the Well Fed Community Garden to help increase the biodiversity in their pollinator garden and in their landscape bordering their food production. Build the soil, plant something, and heal all!!
Helena Boehling loves people, music, art, and nature! She is currently finishing her bachelors degree at NCSU in Middle Grades Education and Spanish. Her talents include finding free items everywhere she goes and making a meal with random ingredients. Her favorite plant is the Venus fly trap – only found in the Carolinas (:
Steven is a mathematician and musician. His background in gardening stems from volunteer experiences and is always grateful for a chance to get his hands in the dirt. He is passionate about regenerative farming practices, including composting and chemical-free growing. His favorite foods are tomatoes and beets (boiled!)
Mia is currently finishing her Associates in Arts degree at Wake Tech. Her inspiration and ardent love for gardening comes from grandpa Frank who taught her the importance of clean eating and getting your hands dirty. She enjoys yoga, cooking, sun soaking on local hikes, and scouting for vintage pieces at her favorite thrift stores. Her favorite flower is the sunflower.
Garden Intention & Plan (recap):
We realized fast during a distanced outdoor gathering on a beautiful late afternoon in June that all of us have the desire to nurture a deep relationship with the earth and to feed others, especially those in need, with healthy and fueling produce. Our idea for the garden space takes a permaculture and community-oriented approach and appeals to the triple bottom line ~ planet, people, and profit ~ framework. Our intention and plan for the garden is as follows:
June 2020 Plan (recap)
– Companion planting for vegetable production: we intend to use the majority of the space where the beds are to grow fruit/vegetable produce alongside native plants and herbs by following companion planting guidelines. Companion planting is a permaculture technique that provides pest control, pollination, and maximum utilization of space. It is friendly to the environment and increases crop productivity, all while being aesthetically interesting. Our plan for the vegetable production is to give back to the people directly involved. This could include volunteers at the garden, produce for meals at Gather events, and donating to local food shelters.
– Cut flowers: we intend to dedicate an area of the space for growing flowers. Besides encouraging the presence of pollinators, cut flowers are an easy way to make money for the amount of work being put in. Our thoughts are to donate it to local nonprofits working to provide food security to our communities and to help cover garden costs. A positive bottom line is an important aspect of sustainability.
– Compost: any permaculture project involves composting. Composting is a way to address the problems of soil health and the overuse of landfills. It provides free, nutritious soil for planting. Our plan involves a compost pile with a possibility of educational materials for community members to learn about composting!
I want to take a moment to share some gratitude to the elements and the thousands upon thousands of life forms in the soil that produce and grow miracles every moment. A big thanks to Michelle and Gather for lending your trust and resources to (essentially) a bunch of strangers to share in the abundance behind your shop. To our team for coming together during such a hard year, encouraging one another and pushing ourselves, even on the really tough days. During a global pandemic, social and racial justice uprisings and political unrest, we all deserve a moment of rest and encouragement: Deep breath in ~ give yourself a squeeze and words of encouragement ~ you are doing great and you matter.
Continued thanks and blessings to those who have gifted the garden whether in thought, monetarily or in items. In 2020 with so much gratitude we received:
~$100 from Jennifer Flowers
~$10 from Nicole Gulotta
~$25 from Debby and Michael Lim
~Cat litter boxes – which we have used for making soil YAY! – and gloves from Erica and Shawn Dolan
~Bamboo sticks, trays, plants, and table/storage unity from Heather and Paul Dezzutto
In the coming blog posts we will share what happened at Gather Garden in 2020 and provide updates of what 2021 holds! I feel as if I can smell the growth of spring these days, soon approaching.
Want to get involved? I believe strongly in community participation and giving of time, energy, passing on resources and connections. Some items we could use as donations: Spade shovel (multiple), digging fork, hard rake, trowel (a few), 5 gallon bucket, tomato cages, small enclosure to hold tools and protect from the rain.
This year (2021) we hope to open up to the neighbors and community more. Want to get dirty in the soil with us? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org, we look forward to connecting with you!