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Clear Spring Community Garden grows food for those in need

August 03, 2013|By LEIGH-ANNE MAUK | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • Jametta McDaniel picks zucchini in the Clear Spring Community Garden on Clear Spring Road.
By Ric Dugan / Staff Photographer

CLEAR SPRING — Six years ago, several Clear Spring residents decided to start a community garden that would provide support to those hit hard by a struggling economy.

“There were a lot of ‘for sale’ signs in the neighborhood and several families where (people) had been laid off,” said Jametta McDaniel, one of the original garden founders. “We knew we had to do something.”

During its first five years, the Clear Spring Community Garden was located on St. Paul Road at the property of one of the garden’s founding members. From the beginning, the local community embraced the garden, offering support in the form of volunteers — including several Master Gardeners — and donations of everything from plants and seeds to water and manure.

Produce grown in the garden frequently found its way into the hands of local residents in need including those at food banks and churches throughout the Tri-State area.
“We have to take care of each other,” McDaniel said. “If we don’t, the whole community suffers. When people have good, healthy food and are physically active and doing things to help each other, everyone benefits.”

When several of the other garden founders had to relocate for work last year, McDaniel wasn’t sure if the garden could continue, but the local community once again rallied to support it.

Big Pool resident Michele Smith had a piece of property on Clear Spring Road that was in need of tenant. She first approached several Mennonite families in the area to see if anyone wanted to use the land and soon found out about the community garden’s plight. For Smith, the garden was a perfect fit.

“I wanted the land to be used for something, especially something that would benefit the community. That was important to me,” Smith said.

The two-and-a-quarter-acre property, which Smith purchased in 1999, has not been used in several years, so the garden group had to spend a lot of time preparing the land.

“When you get new land, it takes awhile for the ground to get acclimated to growing healthy produce,” McDaniel said. “Just like you have to condition your body to eat right or exercise, we have to condition the land to grow what we need.”

Produce grown in the garden this year includes sweet potatoes, onions, watermelons, beets, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, asparagus, potatoes, herbs, and sunflowers. Apple trees also line the property.

McDaniel said more than 20 volunteers currently work the garden. One of those volunteers is Maryanne Ludy, of Smithsburg. Ludy said she likes growing natural food that can be given to charitable organizations.

“I like helping out, and I really enjoy the fellowship with all the people that work here. It’s always fun to do a group project that benefits others and lifts everyone up,” Ludy said.

The garden group continues to donate fresh produce to several charitable organizations in Washington County including the food bank at Lighthouse Baptist Church in Williamsport, which provides food to needy individuals in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

Recently, the group also began donating produce to Oak Hill House, a U.S. fellowship home for adolescent boys in Clear Spring. The youths themselves are also working the land, taking time to help plant and weed the food they will eventually eat.

Coriene Jackson of Hagerstown has worked in the garden for the last two years and says her favorite part of volunteering is working with these teenage groups.

“I get a lot of satisfaction and joy from helping people,” said Jackson, who will turn 87 this October. “And I love working with groups like Oak Hill House. It’s such a joy to see the boys working and enjoying themselves. They ask a lot of questions, and it makes me feel good to be able to give them the right answers.”

Jackson, along with her friend Joan Forrester, also of Hagerstown, are known as the “mothers of the garden” because of the constant support and guidance they give volunteers, especially those from area high schools and youth groups.“They (Jackson and Forrester) are our right and left hands,” McDaniel said. “We couldn’t do this without them.”

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According to McDaniel, volunteers and community support are the reason the garden has been so successful,. She said more volunteers are always needed.

“Even though the new land has been cleared, it’s been 20 years since anything has been grown on it, so there’s a lot we need to do to keep it maintained,” said McDaniel. “We can use all the help we can get.”

To learn more ...      

To learn more about the garden, or to find out about volunteer opportunities, visit the Clear Spring Community Garden website at ClearSpringCommunityGarden.com.

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