WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — Thomas Jefferson once said, “no occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.” In Forsyth County, gardens come in all shapes and sizes, and with the help of the Winston-Salem Foundation, they’re tended by volunteers from the community who share Jefferson’s passion for cultivating the earth.
On a plot of land off Fairchild Road in Winston-Salem, Matthew Scoggins proudly shows off rows of plants and flowers. It’s one of more than 90 different community gardens located in Forsyth County. This one is outside the North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Forsyth County. Others are located outside schools, churches, businesses and community centers.
“Some are tended by students and teachers at our schools,” says Scoggins. “Some are tended by large volunteer organizations; some are tended by individual members of the community or church groups who are trying to give back in a meaningful way to help things like food deserts and other problems we struggle with here in our community.”
It’s up to the volunteers what kind of garden they’ll grow. Some focus on pollinator gardens, others on butterfly gardens, and others on vegetable gardens. “The produce they grow is often donated to food banks and food pantries around the county,” says Scoggins, but he says, volunteering to cultivate a community garden is about more than just growing food or flowers.
“The garden is important as a way to bring communities together in an attempt to give back whether it be by giving food, by teaching important lessons to our students and the next generation, whether it’s just making sure everyone’s being safe outside, make sure they are growing things that we want to be there, nothing invasive and things like that, there’s lot of opportunities to grow, and I think that’s very important,” he says.
A grant from the Winston-Salem Foundation helps buy seeds for the seed bank and live plants to distribute to gardeners. It also helps with a tool lending program so that gardeners can borrow everything from tillers to shovels and hoes to use in planting and tending to their garden. Scoggins says it’s a great investment. Volunteers learn to appreciate nature and learn sustainable practices so community gardens will still be around in 50 years. “And a lot of them are also giving time, money and energy to try to grow to feed their neighbors. I mean, what’s more important than that?”
To get involved, go to the Forsyth County Community Gardening homepage online.
There’s a volunteer interest form to fill out. Someone from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Forsyth County will pair you with a gardening opportunity. You can also sign up to become a gardening mentor.