Community Gardens In Charlotte
With its temperate climate, sufficient open, green space and strong community social connectivity, community gardens thrive in Charlotte. To successfully maintain a garden, staff, community members and volunteers must donate significant portions of their time for fundraising, educational programs, upkeep and logistical purposes. Many of these gardens provide the only option for healthy produce in their neighborhoods. The following list depicts the best community gardens in Charlotte based upon the level of community involvement, educational curriculum, the mission and longevity of the garden and the plots themselves.
Cook’s Community Garden
3201 Mt. Holly-Huntersville Road
Charlotte, NC 28216
Affiliated with Cook’s Memorial Presbyterian Church, the 20 10×10-foot plots seek to provide organic, local produce for the Mt. Island Community. Operated mostly by volunteers, the garden runs from April 1 to December 1 and allocates a portion of the garden for Friendship Trays donations, a local nonprofit that distributes meals everyday for low-income community members. Cook’s Community Garden functions within a network of Friendship Trays gardens to “grow healthy food, make it easily available, create community around local traditions and share knowledge about sustainable food product.” Offering garden plots for volunteers at a small fee, teaching gardening basics for community members and facilitating an egg co-op, Cook’s Community Garden promotes community engagement around gardening and nutrition and encompasses the mission of Friendship Trays gardens. The egg co-op supplies fresh eggs to community members while offering educational programs about urban chicken farming in Charlotte. Interested students will learn the process involved in raising chickens, including acquiring the correct permits, selecting the coup and feeding the chickens.
Little Sugar Creek Greenway Community Garden
1321 Alexander St.
Charlotte, NC 28202
Donating 10 percent of the garden’s produce to Friendship Trays, the Little Sugar Creek Greenway Community Garden engages volunteers in organic and environmentally friendly gardening and contributes to the greater community of Charlotte. Awarded “The People’s Garden” by USDA and Keep America Beautiful, Inc., the urban garden attracts a diverse range of community members and aims to educate the community by offering garden education classes, including composting, seed saving, soil management and food preparation and preservation courses. The garden aspires to provide members of Mecklenburg County with fresh, local produce—regardless of income. Friendship Trays, along with Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation Department, helps maintain the 20 plots for the community.
Sow Much Good
Sunset Road Urban Farm Market
3400 Sunset Road
Charlotte, NC 28216
Founded by Robin Emmons in an attempt to provide Charlotte and the Mecklenburg community with fresh, local and organic produce, Sow Much Good grows produce, makes honey and produces eggs. Interested volunteers can help run the Sow Much Good weekly market from 8 a.m. to 4p.m. during the fall and winter season. Through educational gardening, nutritional programs and convenient access to seasonal produce, Sow Much Good addresses the food desert problem that occurs in many low-income communities filled with strip malls of fast food chains. To better serve its community, the urban farm wants to expand its produce selection and infrastructure supply. The organization has built learning gardens for kids at Ashley Park Elementary School and Kipp Charlotte Prep School.
Wing Haven Gardens
248 Ridgewood Ave.
Charlotte, NC 28209
Often mistaken for a residential house in Myers Park, Wing Haven Gardens and Birds Sanctuary provides a place for native plants and wildlife to thrive. The garden encourages community involvement around environmental stewardship and Charlotte vegetation education. Wing Haven offers itself to many events, including weddings, photography shoots, plant sales and educational seminars for bird and nature enthusiasts, including school programs. In addition, Wing Haven provides gardening and bird watching classes. Interested gardeners can become members by paying a small fee or become volunteers to enjoy even more of the environmental benefits and beauty of Wing Haven.
Winterfield Elementary Community Garden
3100 Winterfield Place
Charlotte, NC 28205
In conjunction with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, North Carolina Parks and Recreation and other Charlotte community organizations, Winterfield Elementary Community Garden is part of Nourishing North Carolina and seeks to provide local and healthy food options to its low-income community members. The elementary school garden acts as a living lab for math, science and social studies classes and facilitates a learning space for the after-school club, Garden Buds, who helps maintain the garden in the summertime. Students love helping out in the garden and also benefit from the beyond-classroom education, including nutrition and basic gardening lessons. In addition, the garden also allocates 10×10-foot plots for $15/year for interested community members according to a report from Communities In Schools.
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Isabel Sepkowitz is a freelance writer. She is an environmentalist who values sustainability, education, and innovation for the emerging green economy. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.