By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published April 29, 2021
STONE MOUNTAIN—In a garden less than two miles away from Corpus Christi Church, volunteers grow produce to help feed local families.
Rosemary, kale and squash are some of the many fruits, vegetables and herbs grown at the Stone Mountain Community Garden, at the VFW Park on Gordon Street. Neighbors visit the garden throughout the year to not only plant their own produce, but to also care for the food pantry garden. For more than a decade, produce grown here helps feed local residents.
Columbus Brown, a Corpus Christi parishioner, is chair of the garden, and works with other Master Gardeners to take care of its needs. Those who work in the garden are all volunteers.
Gardening on and off throughout his life, Brown decided to become a Master Gardener after his retirement in 2008. The following year, the Stone Mountain Community Garden was founded, and was formed at its current location at VFW Park in March 2011. Brown has volunteered at the garden since its opening.
“The garden has been an opportunity for me to share my talents and to share my time,” said Brown. “For me, it’s part of living the Gospel. Everything that we do in the garden is with love.”
Recently, a special committee was formed under the Department of Public Works in the city of Stone Mountain that oversees the garden. Brown serves on the committee as chair, along with three others who serve in different roles.
Growing for the community
Volunteers are welcome throughout the year to help with various tasks, such as pulling weeds, planting and harvesting produce, turning compost and filling water tanks.
More than 50 individual plots are available at the Stone Mountain Community Garden for lease at $35 per year. Individuals and families can rent a plot to grow fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers.
Laurette Jackson, 73, parishioner at Corpus Christi Church, started volunteering at the garden in early April. After her mother died, Brown encouraged her to get out and come to the garden. A vegetarian, she has an individual plot where she grows tomato, basil, kale and oregano.
Jackson sees her time in the garden as caring for mother nature.
“This is my new mother,” she said.
The Columbian Squires at Corpus Christi Church volunteer at the nearby garden–building their plots, putting in soil and planting fruits and vegetables. The youth chapter of the Knights of Columbus volunteers in partnership with Youth for Humanity, which helps to engage youth in charitable works.
Volunteers of all ages, backgrounds and gardening knowledge are invited to spend time in the garden, grow their food and learn from one another. The garden is multicultural and a friendly place for families, said Brown.
The Stone Mountain Community Garden includes an herb garden, composting area, bee colonies for pollination and a meadow that attracts butterflies and other pollinating insects.
In a section called the food pantry garden, produce is grown and donated to the Stone Mountain Cooperative Ecumenical Ministry. Since its beginning in 2011, the garden has donated more than 12,000 pounds of fresh produce, helping some 3,000 families.
“It’s all about taking care of the plants, taking care of the people and helping out in challenging times,” said Brown.
While the garden was able to continue growing last year and was harvested, there were fewer volunteers due to the coronavirus pandemic. The garden was able to receive assistance from Food Well Alliance, an organization that provides resources to farms and community gardens in metro Atlanta.
Last year, the Stone Mountain Community Garden won a grant from Food Well Alliance for a new composting system. This year, they won another grant with the same organization for a new vermicomposting system.
Flannery Pearson-Clarke has been with the Food Well Alliance for nearly a year and a half. She has visited the Stone Mountain Community Garden on multiple occasions, bringing volunteers to help with pulling weeds and planting.
“It’s really wonderful people come together to grow food and to help people see what’s out there,” said Pearson-Clarke, who admits that she also enjoys playing in the dirt.
“Being involved becomes contagious,” said Brown. “When people see you doing good things, they are attracted to the goodness.”