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Nature center's unity garden donates food to local charity
by Joan Durbin
jdurbin@neighbornewspapers.com
June 13, 2012 10:16 AM | 1993 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Milton High School senior Nick Olson, 17, son of Sara and Brian Olson of Alpharetta, works on the potato plants in the community garden at Chattahoochee Nature Center.
Milton High School senior Nick Olson, 17, son of Sara and Brian Olson of Alpharetta, works on the potato plants in the community garden at Chattahoochee Nature Center.
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Though several community gardens flourish in north Fulton, the Unity Garden at the Chattahoochee Nature Center is only one donating its entire yield to charity.

Since the 16,000-square foot urban farm was established in 2010, it has produced and donated more than six tons of fresh produce for North Fulton Community Charities’ food pantry.

“The Unity Garden continues to be a blessing for NFCC and the families we serve, with produce harvested and delivered several times a week all year long, bushels and bushels of vegetables, herbs and greens of all kinds,” said NFCC Executive Director Barbara Duffy.

We receive donations from a half dozen community gardens, but since the Unity Garden started bringing donations to us in June 2010, they have consistently provided 85 to 90 percent of our donated garden produce,” said NFCC food pantry manager Kevin Tracy.

“The families that are most grateful are those that have family members that are battling cancer or other health issues that limit the amount of processed food that they can consume. Without the Unity Garden we would not be able to provide the fresh fruit and vegetables that their diet demands.”

Now in its second year, the garden continues to thrive.

“The summer crops are growing nicely, and I anticipate that we will have the garden fully planted for summer in the next week or so,” said Libby Lintel, the Unity Garden coordinator. “We harvested a good bit last week and at over 1,100 pounds, May 2012 was our biggest harvest month ever.”

Recent harvests included lettuce, sugar snap peas, beets, beet greens, summer squash, onions, scallions, broccoli, fennel, kohlrabi and radish. Among the herbs taken from the garden were basil, catnip, dill, chives, lemon verbena, marjoram, parsley, sage, thyme, lemon thyme and winter savory.

Lintel leads a horticultural team of volunteers who come to the nature center in groups to help grow the crops year round.

“The sustainable garden has three goals, production, donation and education, said the nature center’s community relations director, Lynn McIntyre. “Gardening continues to be a catalyst for community collaboration and interaction.”

Lintel concurred. “We have improved the quality of life for both the people who work in the garden and those who benefit from its harvest.”

The Unity Garden is made possible by a grant, renewed again this year, from Kaiser Permanente. But it’s the folks who pitch in and contribute their time and labor that really make the Unity Garden work, Lintel said.

“We can’t do this without our volunteers. They keep our garden growing,” she said. “Our volunteers include adults, teens, young adult organizations and corporate groups.”

This summer, the garden team needs help with harvesting, watering and weeding and assistance with fall planting. “No experience is needed to help in the Unity Garden,” Lintel said. “We will teach you all that we know, and we all learn together.”

Volunteers are generally needed in the morning between 8 and 11 a.m. In the fall and spring, volunteers are needed from 9 or 10 a.m. until noon or 1 p.m. Volunteers are welcome on a weekly basis, twice a month, or even for a single visit. Groups of 15 to 20 corporate volunteers can also be accommodated.

On June 19, Chattahoochee Nature Center will be the beneficiary of Whole Foods Market’s community giving day, when five percent of that day’s net sales at the Roswell Harry’s Market and the Merchant’s Walk Whole Foods Market in east Cobb will be donated to support of the garden. Both the es will be sponsoring us. We will have our garden volunteers there at each of the stores as well during the day

To get more information about the Unity Garden or to sign up to volunteer, contact Lintel at l.lintel@chattnaturecenter.org or go to www.chattnaurecenter.org./unity-garden-get-involved.
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