WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Four community gardens in Forsyth County created by a new nonprofit known as Reap More Than You Sow yielded an inaugural crop this year of nearly 10,000 pounds of produce tilled by roughly 200 volunteers.
Under a policy of the organization, roughly a fourth of those volunteers were under age 15.
“This is about giving kids education in food, in exercise, in community participation, nutrition and self-sustainability,” says Andrew Hebard, co-founder and board chairman for the all-volunteer group.
Hebard, an agricultural scientist who is founder and CEO of Technology Crops International, a Winston-Salem based firm that grows specialty crops used in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and food ingredients, says he started working in a community garden at age 10 in the town he grew up in about 30 miles south of London.
“I was raised to grow my own vegetables and fruit,” he says.
About a year ago, as a participant in Leadership Winston-Salem, Hebard and other participants were talking about their vision for the future, and the important role community gardens can play.
Hebard later talked to Mark Godwin, a horticulturist who owns Shouse Nursery, a local nursery and landscaping business, and voiced concern about kids “not knowing where food comes from” and about issues like child obesity and environmentalism.
So they decided to form Reap More Than You Sow.
The two began developing plans for the new organization and the gardens it would create.
A captain would manage each garden, operating autonomously within organizational parameters, forming his or her own team, and recruiting volunteers from diverse backgrounds.
Captains would design the gardens, determine crops and schedules, and coordinate work days.
Southern Community Bank and Trust provided startup funds and about half an acre on Reynolda Road for the first garden.
Reap More Than You Sow raised a total of $50,000 in cash and in-kind support and developed three other gardens on land provided by Pfafftown Christian Church, Nazareth Lutheran Church in Rural Hall, and Tom Wolfe and Sand Steely near Stanton Court in Winston-Salem.
The project has multi-year financial commitments from Southern Community Bank and Trust, Flow Honda Winston-Salem and Technology Crops International.
It also has received funding and materials from Home Depot, D.A.C. Industries and Shouse Nursery, as well as free services from law firm Kilpatrick Stockton and Zero Gravity Design.
Volunteers ages six to 77 worked the gardens during the summer, tilling, planting and harvesting over 30 crops, as well as flowers and herbs.
“We really want children to understand where food comes from,” Hebard says. “We want to encourage them to get outside and be active in some basic, natural sciences. We want this to be an educational experience for them about how they determine quality-of-life matters.”
Produce grown at the garden either is consumed by families of participating volunteers or donated to Crisis Control Ministry and the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina, as well as to needy individuals.
And Reap More Than You Sow now hopes to expend to other communities.
It aims to raise another $100,000 by the end of the year and is recruiting an executive director.
And the focus will continue to be on kids, Hebard says.
“With the growing pressure on rising food prices and health associated with the youth of today and the adults of today, this is a way of making a really positive contribution to our future.”