Wiregrass Gives Back: Aunt Katie’s Community Garden working to fill the stomachs and minds of the community
DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - Aunt Katie’s Community Garden is a big part of the Dothan community. They don’t just fill stomachs, but minds as well by educating people on the importance of gardening and nutrition.
“This is a community garden, which is all about community,” Orran Scruggs, deputy executive director, said.
In 2010, Michael Jackson founded Aunt Katie’s Community Garden. It has been a staple here in Dothan since.
“It was just a way to bring economic growth and education about nutrition to the lower income areas,” Scruggs said.
It’s stuffed with over a dozen different types of vegetables. Everything from tomatoes, squash, kale, cucumber, eggplants, peppers, onion and sweet potatoes.
All at a discount.
“Our duty here is to serve each other,” Scruggs said. “So, when you come in, we’re already welcoming you. We don’t look at or judge people by their economic status. You just come in and get what you need, and if you don’t have enough, then somebody will make up for what you are missing.”
The garden stands as an accessible resource for people who may suffer with health issues.
“We have nutrition programs that will enable them to help with their diet and to have a better healthy eating habit toward their life goals,” Belvia Jones, director and gardener, said.
Jones adds that they work to deliver organic food options to the community and to instill in them there’s nothing like growing your own vegetables.
Their mission doesn’t stop at helping people tangibly.
Aunt Katie’s Community Garden has served the community for over a decade, providing nutritional education for the youth, planting seeds of success for their future.
“They grow up living a healthier lifestyle, making the right food choices and just being able to be sort of self-sufficient, knocking a few things off of your grocery list that you can grow in your backyard,” Scruggs said.
Jones started working at the garden in 2014 and she wears a lot of hats, most frequently her gardening hat.
“They always tell me that my hands are the growing hands,” Jones said.
Jones has several techniques she shares with those who stop by when it comes to planting. She said it all starts with this:
“There is one technique that I do every time I plant, I say, ‘God, please let it grow,’” Jones said.
She said it is important to be mindful of what you are planting in each season.
“You have Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall, and you have different vegetations that you plant during those times of the year,” Jones said.
Another busy staff member at the garden, is Scruggs.
“I make hot sauces, I make salts, pickles, lip balm,” Scruggs said.
He said his job goes beyond just creating, but also putting research at the forefront.
“We’re learning what grows best in these greenhouses during the season, so we know exactly how to get the most yield out of our greenhouse,” Scruggs said.
Scruggs tells News 4 this garden is a staff of three.
“This becomes almost an urban farm,” Scruggs said. “We need all the hands we can get, so it’s been really a blessing.”
Making volunteers, like Brayden Banner, crucial.
“We’re doing the Lord’s work is what we’re doing,” Banner said.
Banner is a part of WIRED Ministries. The group spent several days volunteering at the garden, painting, planting, and picking. Taking what they learned at Aunt Katie’s out into the world.
“It’s been great work so far,” Banner said.
Summertime is the garden’s busiest year and this Summer is no different.
“If you need any help, we’d be willing to help you,” Jones said.
If you are in need of help or would like to volunteer, you can call this number: (334)648-4496
Or you can simply stop by the garden which is open Tuesday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and on Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
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