Community Garden Benefits From Truancy Intervention Program

7-3-2015 3-18-22 PMIt has been two years since the Community Garden grant was received from Lowe’s through Keep America Beautiful. The gardens were created in an effort to grow fresh produce for Limestone County Churches Involved to give out through their food pantry.

Three raised beds were built, hugelkultur beds were created, the gazebo and garden shed were constructed, trees planted, and t-posts installed in preparation for planting pole beans. The raised beds and hugelkultur beds have been weeded, the soil prepared, and vegetables planted.

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So now we just sit and wait to harvest vegetables, right? We wish it could be that simple! There is mulching and watering and weeding to be done! We also have a gazebo waiting to be stained.

With the help of students and parents participating in the Truancy Intervention Program (TIP) designed to combat school tardiness, absenteeism and drop-out rates, we are well on our way to getting these tasks handled.

This program is a collaboration between the Limestone County Juvenile Court and Athens State University. TIP works as a liaison between these students, their parents, school officials, truancy officers, the court, and community organizations. As part of this program, Athens State University Criminal Justice Professor Quanda Stevenson contacted KALB to ask if we would be willing to work with these students on a community service project that would also be a learning experience. The answer was yes and we knew exactly what the project would be.

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The students and their parents have been working at the community garden one afternoon per week and will continue to do so through the month of July. This has been a tremendous help to the community garden committee and it seems it has already been beneficial to the students.

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Mr. John Cotten and Mr. Doug Harbin guided volunteers in cutting boards and putting together raised beds at the base of T-posts that will be used to grow pole beans. That project will be completed with students doing the work as they hone their skills. Students will also fill the beds with soil, cardboard, and mulch, as well as plant the beans, and watch them grow.

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Mr. Cotten designed a sprinkler system for the raised beds which will make watering the gardens easier. TIP students helped put the system together and were there to watch it being tested and tweaked.

The most pleasant surprise is the hard working attitudes of these young people. On the hottest day of the year with a heat index over 100 degrees, some students refused to leave at the end of their scheduled time because they wanted to finish the jobs they’d started. It has been good to witness this work ethic and we have certainly let them know how much their hard work is appreciated!

We have had incidents of produce being picked by people who are not associated with this project or the LCCI Food Pantry. We are striving to make the public aware that this is not a u-pick garden, but a garden created from the sweat and elbow grease of people who care about neighbors who cannot afford fresh produce due to their current circumstances.

If you would like to help with the community garden project, contact KALB at 256-233-8000. If you are in need of the services of LCCI’s food pantry, please call 256-262-0671.
By: Lynne Hart

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