Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District, Virginia

The 5,200 square foot Strasburg Community Garden had an impressive first year of growth. It included an area filled with a collection of heirloom vegetables and herbs as well as native grasses and wildflowers in raised bed community plots and partner plots. The garden donated over 450 pounds of produce to two local food pantries and provided 14 educational workshops attended by over 295 people. The first annual Harvest Festival was held at the community garden, where 30 local artisans, farmers, nonprofits and organizations presented to the community the services and products they provide. The Harvest Festival had an attendance of over 400 people, and the town would like to make this a recurring event.

Day one of the Strasburg Community Garden on the left, then six months later, on the right; there were 18 community plots in the garden and three partner plots in the garden

The garden would not have been possible without several public-private partnerships that gave their time and shared knowledge via the newly formed Urban Agriculture Working Group. Pot Town Organics, a local plant and garden shop, provided discounts on materials, space to hold educational workshops, and shared expertise with gardeners and district staff. The Town of Strasburg provided staff to help with the marketing of educational workshops and events as well as the space for the garden. The local Master Gardeners association and Extension agents were integral to the success of the educational workshops and events. Other partners included the Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of America, Rockingham Cooperative, Strasburg United Methodist Church, local high school and middle school FFA chapters, Strasburg Farmers Market, Natural Art Garden Center, Gabalot Gardens, local food pantries, Massanutten Regional Governor’s School, Strasburg Rotary and Kiwanis Club of Strasburg.

In addition to the many partnerships, unique aspects of the garden will also keep it sustainable.  A rainwater harvesting system was installed with the help of Signal Knob Middle School’s FFA.  This system provides and stores up to 1,525 gallons of rainwater, whcih garden plot holders can use to irrigate their crops. The Strasburg Rotary Club was successful in obtaining a grant to build a shed for the garden and use solar power to energize a pump for the rainwater harvesting system, making it much more efficient. The handicapped-accessible, raised beds created by a local Eagle Scout and his troop will continue to provide space for those who could not have access to a garden otherwise. A bioswale planted with native grasses, installed by local high school students, will continue to collect and treat stormwater runoff protecting the garden from flooding. Volunteers like these students have been fundamental to the garden’s success, contributing over 1,295 hours to the project.

A rainwater harvesting system, designed by Lord Fairfax SWCD and installed with help from a local middle FFA chapter, kept the garden plots irrigated throughout the growing season

Sustainability

The district will be stepping down as the primary manager of the Strasburg Community Garden in 2019. The garden was created for demonstration and education to the public, inspiring locals to grow their own produce. Keeping with that theme, the district is recruiting a collegiate student to take over the managerial responsibilities of the garden. A creative young mind will continue the passion that made the garden such a success. The district has reached out to over 30 professors at five colleges in the area, seeking a student interested in this great opportunity.

The district will still have a plot in the garden and will be heavily involved in workshops and work days. Keeping a small plot there will maintain the face of the district within the garden while allowing staff to monitor and answer any questions the new manager might have.  A “Garden Manual” has been created, outlining the details of the Strasburg Community Garden. This will provide the new manager information on everything from workshops and managing plot holders to maintaining infrastructure. The district will ask for weekly updates to ensure everything is being supervised properly.

With the great success of the first year of growing, and the amazing support of the Town of Strasburg and its locals, the Strasburg Community Garden will continue to educate and provide fresh produce to the community for years to come.

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