When the Perry County CD started this project, they had nothing but a promise of a block owned by the city to start an urban garden for the community. Since the timing of the grant came in the middle of the summer, it started with a pumpkin patch growing all sizes of pumpkins and gourds. A community fall festival was held where the pumpkins were sold. As a result, the district was able to give each of the two elementary schools $55 for their ‘backpack program,’ which sends food home with kids. It wasn’t much, but it was a start.
The garden became a real focus point in the community, increasing the district’s visibility. A small garden in the downtown square was offered, and a berry patch was born. There are three strawberry beds, 20 thornless blackberry bushes and 12 blueberry bushes. In the spring, plantings included 120 tomato plants, 45 bell peppers, 15 jalapenos, 12 cucumbers, 35 zucchini and squash, eggplant and radishes. The district set up a market and sold all that produce. During the summer, two more city blocks and an acre field on the outskirts of town were made available. A tractor was donated, and the district bought other much-needed equipment. In addition to the public purchases of produce, there are three restaurants in town that also bought from the garden. At the end of the summer, the district was able to give each school over $150.
Three beehives were set up in the garden supporting the district’s new Perry County Bee Keepers Chapter with 10 members and the promise of more joining.
A “Perry County Youth Garden Club” was established with 13 kids of different ages, and that turned into a 4-H club.
The small community in Perry County welcomed and supported the garden whole-heartedly, which was literally started from scratch. The district now maintains three lots in town. Garden #1 is a vegetable garden and home to the beehives. Garden #2 is the second vegetable garden for corn, okra and squash. Garden #3 is the berry garden with strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. The district has been asked to take an acre on the edge of town for a huge pumpkin patch this year. Work will continue to be done with the donated tractor, and purchases of a tiller, mowers and three different hand tillers. The farmers market is set with tables, umbrellas and other gear. The district now has the opportunity to work with two agriculture students from the University of Arkansas in planning and operating the garden this coming season; they get college credits for donating their skills and time. The City of Perryville, which already pays all water bills, will send city workers to help maintain the gardens. The district looks forward to remaining involved with all who made the garden a reality.