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September 12, 2017
A new community garden established and managed by Farm Credit recently delivered its first crop of 208 pounds of potatoes to a local food bank, bringing fresh, healthy produce to area residents in need.
The garden sits on a lot purchased by the financial cooperative for potential future office expansion; in the meantime, Rocky Mount branch manager Joey Cornwell recognized the opportunity to support the community by growing and donating produce.
“There are far too many people in and around Rocky Mount who can’t afford enough fresh food, and we saw a chance to help by putting this land to work, similar to the other community gardens the United Way along with the help of the Rocky Mount Rotary Club and many other supporters in the community have been installing around the area for the past three years,” said Cornwell, who is a Rotary Club member and a life-long gardener. “The Rocky Mount team brought the idea of turning the lot into a community garden to Farm Credit’s leadership, and they were extremely supportive of the idea.”
With financial support also provided by Farm Credit as well as other donors, including the United Way, and with $700 of his own money, Cornwell was able to purchase tools, equipment and inputs such as seed, as well as hire a local contractor to plow under the grass that had been planted when the dilapidated house that had been on the land was demolished. The work started early this year to create the 50’ x 100’ garden area, and the first crop of 50 pounds of seed potatoes was planted in April, with corn following in May. Brightening the area is a small square of flowers, planted primarily to attract pollinators.
“Because we needed to be able to care for the garden outside of our work hours, we purposefully planted low-labor crops,” Cornwell said. “It’s unfortunate that our corn crop didn’t turn out this year, but we’re pleased with the potato crop and hope to have even more production next year as we work on the soil fertility of the garden.
Others were excited by the project as well, and fellow Farm Credit employees helped plant the crops and deliver the potatoes to the Heavenly Manna Incorporated food pantry. Several Rotarians helped, as did the Director of the United Way Pam Chitwood who heads the Giving Gardens Project. A local youth group also came out to help harvest and bag the potatoes into 4-pound packages for ease of distribution.
“It took a lot of people to make this happen, and they all stepped up right when we needed it,” Cornwell, said. “I think our garden helps teach people where their food comes from, gives back to the community, and also that you don’t need 100 acres to be a farmer and make a difference.”
With continued support from Farm Credit and the community, Cornwell hopes to increase production of the garden next year and deliver even more food to area residents in need.
Farm Credit of the Virginias provides over $1.8 billion dollars in financing to more than 11,000 farmers, agribusinesses and rural homeowners throughout Virginia, West Virginia and western Maryland. Farm Credit is a cooperative capitalized largely through investments made by farmers, ranchers and the rural homeowners and businesses that borrow from them. In fact, as part of a nationwide network they are the largest single provider of agricultural credit in the United States and have been for 100 years. Farm Credit helps maintain and improve the quality of life in rural America and on the farm through its constant commitment to competitive lending, expert financial services and for facilitating and sharing knowledge and resources through the Farm Credit Knowledge Center. For more information, visit www.FarmCreditKnowledgeCenter.com or www.FarmCreditofVirginias.com.
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