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High Point organization turns overgrown lots into community gardens

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HIGH POINT, N.C. -- Growing High Point turns vacant, overgrown lots into productive community gardens.

And the organization can turn backyard gardeners into urban farmers.

Davina van Buren has a garden at home, so she knows a thing or two about taking care of vegetable plants.

But raising a greenhouse filled with several varieties of cucumbers and tomatoes is a whole new experience.

"It's just the scale," van Buren said. "The time it takes to water this many plants and do this many transplants."

There's always something new for this first time urban farmer to learn from her green-thumb mentor Jose Abreu.

"He's been teaching a lot about weather conditions and pest and all the science about the plants," van Buren said. "That's one thing I didn't know about."

The lessons are paying off.

In its first season, the Pershing Street high tunnel greenhouse is producing plenty of food for the community.

"It feels really great when a neighbor wanders in and asks about the tomatoes and cucumbers and you pick one off of the vine and share," van Buren said.

Growing High Point has a successful High Point Farmers Market stand.

van Buren wants to build on that success by providing local chefs with microgreens: young, edible vegetables like broccoli, lettuce and spinach.

The small seedlings are trending because they are packed with nutrients and compounds that are good for you.

"Chefs love them. They are very versatile," van Buren said. "They can be used on a sandwich or a soup."

So in the first season of growing together, the high tunnel greenhouse and van Buren have experienced a lot.

"It's still fun. I have a new respect for farmers," van Buren said.

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