Wake Tech’s Eastern Wake Educational Center plans to venture outside its conventional career-growing classes and offer one on good garden-growing techniques.
At the same time, organizers hope the class yields a permanent fixture in Zebulon that members of the community can both tend and benefit from.
The goal of the upcoming “Community Garden” course is to promote interest in sustainable gardening. It’s a relevant subject to address in the area considering nearly all of Zebulon has been identified as a food desert by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“The mission is to show people how to grow their own food and eat healthier, because of the hunger in America were are recently hearing more and more about,” said Pamela Little, the dean of the Eastern Wake site.
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The course will be instructed by master gardener Anita Stone and her son, Steve, who also runs a group called Triangle Area Gardeners and Homesteaders. They’ve been building up the teaching garden outside the Zebulon facility since about mid-May.
Anita Stone, 78, considers it part of her calling to make sure people know they don’t have to go hungry, thanks to a little bag of seeds.
“We want people to know that the food is here; we want people to learn how to do this because we’re really into sustainability and being pro-organic,” she said. “We want people to know they can thrive, exist and live using their own hands and knowledge to sustain themselves.”
As her title indicates, Anita Stone will largely lead the green-thumb end of the course. Steve Stone says there is plenty of overlap in what he and his mother can teach, but he was the brains behind the construction of the garden. He used repurposed pallets and other materials to build the garden beds, and hopes to expand the existing 20-by-30-foot space by three feet in each direction in the near future.
The garden currently consists of summer crops – like herbs, tomatoes, peppers, squash and watermelons – that will soon be replaced by fall crops and eventually winter and spring crops.
A plan with a purpose
Every bed in the teaching garden is unique for a reason, to demonstrate the many ways gardens can be built.
“There’s two goals: the education goal to teach people how to basically have their own garden,” Steve Stone said. “The second goal is the community garden aspect – a place for people to volunteer and come in and work the garden and give to the community.”
Students can keep a percentage of what they grow, and Little hopes to set aside a portion of the course’s crop to donate to a local non-profit organization that works with food banks.
“My goal is to keep it here in this community,” Little said. “We’re also trying to work to sell plots to corporate sponsors and with those funds maintain the garden and provide scholarships to take the course.”
The Stones say it is a critical time as far as access to food goes. Steve Stone said that makes it important to find ways to pick up the bill and enable a student to take the course.
“Right now, the way things are economically, people actually depend on their own garden to survive,” Steve Stone said. “The bottom line is people have had to learn to grow their own food or do without. ... It’s become more of a necessity than a luxury at this point.”