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Sowing community seeds

Organically grown food and herbs is the new trend, and VSU’s Blazer Gardens is reaching out to the community to teach people about safe gardening.

On Saturday, Blazer Gardens teamed up with the apartment complex, Woodlawn Terrace, at 1211 N. Forrest St., and helped start their first community garden.

“Blazer Gardens was initially supported by members of the Valdosta Community,” Bobbi Hancock, founder of Blazer Gardens, said. “Without the initial supplies and monetary support provided by members and businesses in our community, Blazer Gardens would have had a very difficult time getting off the ground.”

Students, residents of Woodlawn Terrace and members of Blazer Gardens gathered around a small plot in hopes to cultivate herbs and vegetables for the new season.

Preparations for the garden began last semester when Nancy Schmidt, property manager for Gateway Company and owner of Woodlawn Terrace, approached Hancock with the idea.

“Nancy and I met a few years ago while I was an employee at The Plant Station,” Hancock said. “The garden members had already decided to do some type of service project for the spring semester so when the opportunity presented itself, we were more than happy to get involved.”

Hancock and members jumped on the opportunity to pay the community back for the support and love they had devoted to their difficult start-up, when becoming an official VSU organization was a battle.

“[G]rowing organically comes from my reflections on the current state of our food system,” Danielle Costello, graduate student and Blazer Gardens member, said. “I don’t want to eat food or support a system derived of exploitation, that poisons the bodies that grow, harvest and eat it, that destroys the earth and environment from which our food comes from. So growing my own food organically and working with the Blazer Gardens mission is a way of manifesting my beliefs about food into the world.”

The gardening began with some tending to the soil, making sure trash and unwanted debris left by construction workers was not buried beneath the dirt.

Costello set up trays, showing students and residents the best way to plant small seeds securely in soil until they sprout stalks that can be transported to the garden.

Lines were made by hand in the small trays of soil, and the seeds were carefully poured in the lines and covered.

As the gardening continued, Costello gave each nearby person a chance to plant seeds in the trays, as well.

“During World War II people had victory gardens,” Costello said. “Forty-percent of our produce was produced in those victory gardens—40-percent was produced just by people gardening.”

“If during World War II, 40-percent of our food could have been cultivated that easily, imagine what we could do now,” she said.

The community garden at Woodlawn Terrace is a small plot with three divided sections laid out by VSU alumni and Blazer Gardens’ off-campus advisor, Jennifer Vieth.

Three large, raised sections were strategically divided for proper cultivation and with root competition in mind.

“We have tomatoes, which will hopefully grow around the stands we placed in the center of the sections, then peppers because they are friendly with tomatoes and onions near that,” Vieth said.

Even with large storm clouds and wind passing over, participants continued to work hard to get the garden started.

Once all the plants were buried beneath the soil and watered, residents were able to take a small tray with seeds back to their apartments. Many chose to take herbs.

Hancock made sure to relay to the participants who plan to tend to the garden as it germinates, that residents and students were not to neglect the garden.

No participant left Saturday afternoon without dirt under their nails.

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