Community gardens need votes to get grant

Published 9:03 am Monday, April 11, 2016

A project which has arisen from a partnership and a vision of more than a dozen local agencies now stands to gain $20,000 in grant funding with community support.

The Carter County Community Garden Committee has been meeting since February laying out plans for four community gardens with the vision of creating a program that will help families and individuals to begin their own backyard gardens.

Even sooner than planned, that vision is becoming reality, as the committee is in contest to win either $10,000 or $20,000 through a Seeds of Change Grant.

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“All people have to do is get online, check a box saying ‘I’m not a robot,’ and click vote,” said Jilian Reece, a project organizer. “They can vote everyday till April 18, and we hope that they will.”

The committee was born out of the Carter County Community Advisory Board (CAB), which took this on as its annual project. CAB represents more than 20 local organizations, and Reece said this project has involved most of them, along with numerous area businesses and experts.

The plan was inspired by a backyard gardening project in Johnson City called Build It Up East Tennessee, said Reece. Its program leader, Lexy Close presented their program to CAB, and said that while two Carter County families participated in its first year, they do not have the resources to accommodate all the applications they have received from Carter County residents.

CAB loved the idea of providing workshops, education, tools and materials to families to improve community nutrition and food security, Reece said.

In order to help gain grant funding and to begin a feasible gardening program, the committee decided to establish four community gardens at the Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library, Elizabethton Housing and Development Agency, Elizabethton Senior Center and at Village Pediatrics.

Reece said they plan to expand the program to families at their homes next year with grant funding.

“Carter County is spread out, so we know not everyone has access to community gardens,” said Reece. “So we wanted to start these this year and then to be able to provide gardens to people at their homes. With this money, we would create community gardens and family gardens in the far reaches of Carter County.”

She said they want the program to making successful gardening accessible families in Hampton, Roan Mountain, Stoney Creek, Happy Valley and all other places in the county.

Additionally, she said the funding will help them to establish a farmers market, providing a venue for gardeners to sell their excess.

“So it would not only be benefitting the family to have food, but it would increase their income also,” said Reece.

The four locations for community gardens will begin either way, but she said the grant funding will be the help they need to create the farmers market and backyard gardening program like Build It Up. She said they would also like to make payment at the farmers market EBT-accessible like Jonesborough’s market.

“The first step is voting; we need everyone to vote every day,” she said.

The project has already gained support from numerous municipal, private and non-profit organizations including Elizabethton Parks and Recreation, the Carter County Health Department, Elizabethton/Carter County Boys and Girls Club, University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension, Kingsport’s Community Garden, Build It Up, Downtown Chiropractic, Farm Bureau Insurance Tri-Cities ReadNPlay, Phatboy Landscapes and many others.

Communities and schools have applied for the grant from across the nation. A panel of judges will award grants to 24 of the top 50 in the nation. Two schools and two communities will receive $20,000, and 10 schools and 10 communities will receive $10,000.

To cast a vote, visit and select Carter County Community Gardens from the gallery of growers. A link is also available on the Community Advisory Board Facebook page.

Click THIS LINK to vote now.

For those that do not have a computer, Reece said the computers at the library are set up to allow people to vote.

She encouraged everyone to vote and vote daily and to share the link digitally to encourage others to support the program.