Three Gardens Serving Three Populations

Columbia, SC | November 2011 | By National Recreation and Park Association

Three Gardens Serving Three Populations 410

The Richland County project started with eight raised beds at the Crane Creek Community Center. The Crane Creek community is comprised of five low-income, predominantly African-American neighborhoods. The garden is part of the center’s after-school program, and children in second through fifth grade, 55 in all, work in the garden during the school year. When the school year ends, approximately 50 children from the center’s summer day camp work in the garden.

The objectives are to educate the children about nutrition, improve their nutrition, and increase their opportunities for outdoor exercise. Zenethia Brown, the Recreation Commission’s Director of Community Relations, stated that the goals were to, “expose [the children] to better foods, better nutrition, better food choices. And just kind of get them out there and take them off the video games. Just get them outside.” Although it wasn’t an objective at the outset, the program became intergenerational, when a group of retired seniors with gardening expertise began working with the children on a regular basis.

The program has been extended to two other locations. The neighborhood association in Ridgewood Park has been working with the Recreation Commission to develop a garden that will be open to all residents of that community. One of the goals is for participants to take the skills they learn at the garden and use them to create their own home gardens. A local school has also been using the garden in its science curriculum. The third garden is at the Denny Terrace Community Center as part of its adaptive recreation program for adults and children with special needs. So far, the Crane Creek and Denny Terrace gardens have had a harvest. The gardeners were able to take home the fruits and vegetables of their labor, and a school near the Crane Creek center also received some of the bounty. 

Clemson University Extension has been the program’s main partner to date, providing technical expertise to get the gardens up and running. This includes testing the soil and making recommendations for amending it. In the fall, the Extension Service will conduct composting workshops.

The Richland County Recreation Foundation raised private funding to support the programs offered by the Recreation Commission. In addition to the NRPA grant, funding for the garden program has come from Palmetto Pride, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to end littering in South Carolina and beautify the state. These grants have been used to get the three gardens up and running. That funding combined with other grants will be used to sustain the program in the future.