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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Sowing Some Seeds

I've always loved to get my hands dirty. Growing up on a farm helps a kid learn to like messy. Not much has changed since then, even though I'm a somewhat grown woman. Now the only difference is that I have a partner to help me and he is even better at growing things (and at getting dirty). My husband is a born farmer, even though his career path led him in a different direction. So we have our own little patch of green heaven out in Madison County, where in the summer BLTs are on the menu about twice a week and friends and family get our canned figs during the holidays.

We aren't the only ones in Madison County on the growing bandwagon. Tonja Johnson, Director of the Madison County Library System, is currently developing community gardens for a couple of her branches. The first library in the Madison County Library System to try community gardening was the Flora Public Library. Flora Branch Manager Dee Export has worked with Nichole Kitchens of Keep Flora Beautiful to establish raised beds; the community gardening group now meets the second Friday of each month. Recently, Larry Stephenson of Southern Cultured Orchards and Nursery came to one of the group's meetings and planted an apple tree, a fig tree, and a persimmon tree, as well as a blackberry vine. He plans to come back in the fall to talk about different types of apples. This community garden is off to a great start!

Southern Cultured Orchards and Nursery's Larry Stephenson, Flora Public Library
Branch Manager Dee Export, and Keep Flora Beautiful's Nicole Kitchens

Community Garden at the Flora Public Library

Recently, I asked Tonja if I could tag along for a meeting she was having for folks in the community of Camden. Camden, a charming area in the northeast area of Madison County, has a wonderful library located next to a community center, a large pavilion, and a playground... and it has the perfect garden spot. One beautiful morning, I headed that way. Tonja was expecting an agent with the Alcorn Extension Program and I couldn't wait to learn from this agricultural educator. Ralph Arrington was extremely knowledgeable and shared some sound advice on locations and a few other good tips to help them get started. Alcorn even has a Mobile Farmer's Market, so Tonja scheduled it to come to the library on June 23rd from 5-7. (This is one of two family programs the library is planning around the Mobile Farmers Market; the other will be in July.) The preparations for the community garden project will begin in August and the beds will be filled in September... just in time for delicious fall crops.

Camden Public Library

Alcorn Extension Program Educator Ralph Arrington, Madison County Library
System Director Tonja Johnson, and Camden resident Dr. BJ Luchion

Clean living is all the rage right now and you don't have to be an expert to get on the bandwagon. Visit your library and read up on how a little time and effort in the garden will get huge results. Or go to these branches in Madison County and tag along with them on their community garden adventures. Libraries in Mississippi are doing some of the most innovative yet back-to-basics things! With all of the chemicals and toxins in our food these days, learning to be self-sustaining (at least a little) is more important than ever. And those fresh Mississippi tomatoes on BLTs just can't be beat!

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