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Clear Spring community garden keeps producing produce

August 08, 2010|By JANET HEIM
  • From left, Bernice Mebane, Garry Mebane, Lori Stottlemyer and Jametta McDaniel are among those who keep the Windy Rock Community Valor Garden growing.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer,

CLEAR SPRING -- This summer's drought has been tough on local gardens, but there's produce to share at the Windy Rock Community Valor Garden in Clear Spring.

The women who founded the community garden said this year's crop is nowhere near last year's bounty, but what is grown and given away comes from the heart.

Lori Stottlemyer, Jametta McDaniel and Bernice Mebane were drawn to each other by their shared interest in helping others. Stottlemyer and McDaniel are neighbors, and started planning the community garden as a way to help local families in need during the recession, as well as rally the community together.

Mebane, 55, who lives in Greencastle, Pa., has her own hair salon and learned of the garden project from McDaniel, who is a client of hers. Since the project began, Stottlemyer's husband, Erik, and Mebane's husband, Garry, have joined the team.

"We met and there was an immediate connection. We realized the commonality among us," Lori Stottlemyer said. "Our other connection is we're all talkers."

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The Stottlemyers are originally from Mt. Airy, Md., McDaniel is from Chicago, Bernice Mebane was raised in St. Louis and Garry Mebane grew up in North Carolina.

The Stottlemyers have two daughters. The Mebanes have two adult daughters, two adult sons and six grandchildren.

The 80-foot-by-30-foot organic garden is on the property of the Stottlemyers, who live on St. Paul Road in Clear Spring. Lori Stottlemyer, 43, started Windy Rock Equine Rescue, also on their property.

A Google search led to information about starting a traditional community garden, which the team followed precisely last year. Everything -- seeds, plants, water, canning jars and labor -- was donated.

A group of about 30 volunteers signed up to help last year. McDaniel said bushels of tomatoes and corn were given away to charities.

This year, interest waned and the three had to purchase supplies for the garden from their own pockets.

The volunteer interest also diminished, down to a core group of nine, including a man who tilled the garden and who brings in 600 gallons of water every 10 days or so to keep the plants going during the dry summer.

McDaniel said she had already spent eight hours in the garden last week, as of Tuesday. She feels the effort is well worth it, though.

"We're paying it forward. That's the whole purpose of serving, to pass on what you don't need," McDaniel said. "It's hands-on. We donate time instead of money. It feels good."

This year's crop has yielded lettuce, tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, melon, corn, green beans, cucumbers, okra and onions, with pumpkins yet to come. The plan is to rotate and change the selection of vegetables each year.

"It's neat. We learn something every year," Lori Stottlemyer said.

When there's an abundance of one particular crop, the volunteers take to the kitchen for canning tomatoes, green beans and corn, and freezing corn.

They are all gratified by the appreciative response they get when they deliver produce and canned items to community members, fellow church members and local food banks.

Bernice Mebane has shared the bounty with senior citizens at Potomac Center in Hagerstown as well, with a positive response.

Following on the heels of Michelle Obama's concept to teach healthful eating through the goodness of the garden, the Clear Spring garden team uses its fresh produce to pass on healthful recipes and suggestions for using fresh foods.

"This is my dream. I feel so blessed. I want to give, give, give," Lori Stottlemyer said.

Bernice Mebane shares Stottlemyer's excitement.

"It's like turning me loose in a candy store. You get exercise, get to meet new people. It took me back to my roots. I wouldn't trade it for anything," she said.




For more information...



For more information about the Windy Rock Community Valor Garden, call Lori Stottlemyer at 240-357-6754.

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