St. John’s Community Garden History In the spring of 2014, St. John’s Community Garden (SJCG), located behind the Parish House at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Main Street in Marion, NC and covers a space of ~ 45 ft. by 90 ft., was established to grow fresh produce for the Martha T. Simmons Food Pantry.
In the first year, garden volunteers produced over 700 pounds of fresh vegetables. In respect for God’s Good Earth, any fruits and vegetables not used by the food pantry and non-human consumables are composted or donated to a local pig farmer keeping all organic waste in the agriculture ecosystem.
Since the beginning, several local farms, greenhouses, and community members, have donated plants and garden materials in support of the SJCG. A bio-intensive organic gardening technique has produced hundreds of pounds of vegetables for our food pantry each year. The need to produce vegetables for Martha Simmon’s Food Pantry since the beginning of the Pandemic in 2020 has more than doubled from serving ~ 50 families per week to more than 150 families most weeks.
2015: The garden received our first Human Hurt and Hope grant from the Episcopal Church for the development of St. John’s Community Garden. We began having a student from McDowell Technical Community College volunteering who was rewarded at the end of the season with a minimal scholarship.
2016: The McDowell Technical Community College GED, English as a Second Language, Adult Basic Education, and Early College students began volunteering in the SJCG with more than $2000 in total scholarships awarded to a diverse group students dedicating significant time in the garden.
2017: A second Human Hurt and Hope grant funded our new watering system for the garden resulting in reduced labor and sufficient hydration provided for the raised beds. The garden received compost from the City of Marion and cow manure from a local farm to help enrich the soil. The SJCG added a garden spot at Bracket Town Farms almost 20 miles south of town with mainly root vegetables to help increase harvest. SJCG vegetable production for 2017 was the highest at that point with 1032 pounds, but the added garden and drive time was not sustainable.
2018: The third Human Hurt and Hope grant from the WNC Diocese funded the installation of a crosswalk through the garden, increasing accessibility. With continued support of volunteer from an Early College student and a Master Gardener, and clients from Care Net, our local mental health provider, the vegetable production was only 513 pounds due to weather and transitions in the garden design.
2019: A gift in memory of Dean Wall, a dedicated volunteer in the Food Pantry, funded a stipend for our first university student intern from Warren Wilson University. St. John’s Garden added more flowers to attract bees, native pollinators, and beautiful butterflies. Two full rows of the garden were taken over by zinnias which were used in the church, shared at the McDowell Senior Center and nursing homes in McDowell County.
2020: Lindy Abrams, organic garden specialist from Banner’s Greenhouse volunteered with SJCG bringing a wealth of knowledge and hard work during the COVID Pandemic. Lindy volunteered when finding volunteers were challenging. In an effort to control the urban critters in the garden, a 2 foot chicken wire fence was installed. Student interns from MTCC began helping with the Historic Marion Tailgate Market to sell cut flowers raising enough funds for garden expenses and stipend for one student intern.
2021: Flowers were moved to raised beds and borders around the vegetable garden. An additional rock walkway was installed for gardeners’ access to cut flowers. Adding cover cloth to the raise beds increased the growing season from 8 to 11 months increased the garden production to over 1400 pounds for the year.
2022: Several obstacles challenged the garden including: heavy frequent rains or no rains for several weeks, limited student interns and a surprising invasion of Fire Ants in August. By November, an organic Fire Ant pest control sustains was located. The Fire Ant hills in the garden were drenched. These issues reduced our harvest to only 621 pounds for the year. Our volunteers continued to sell flowers at the Historic Marion Tailgate Market to raise funds for a new effective critter control garden fence.
St. John’s Community Garden heading forward: 2023: The tenth year of SJCG brings hope and plans for a successful garden. Lowe’s Hardware of Marion is providing materials for a pest control fence to be installed prior to the 2023 growing season. Funds from the past three years at the tailgate market will fund the new fence installation. A new apprentice from NC State Boots on the Ground Apprenticeship Program, Simone Lo began in February of 2023 for 10 to 20 hours per week shared with another farmer in McDowell County. SJCG plans to join the Community Support Agriculture (CSA) program, NC Farmers of the Foothills/Big Foot CSA to offer flowers as a weekly add on for their memberships. Home - NC Farmers of the Foothills (eatfromfarms.com) The SJCG plans to continue with the Marion Tailgate Market selling cut flowers and other items from May and June on Tuesdays from 3 to 6 pm then in July will be moving to Saturday morning 9 a.m. to Noon. If you have questions about the garden or would like to volunteer please email us at email@example.com .