JACKSONVILLE — A few spare tires and the remnants of some dismantled wood pallets make an otherwise vacant lot in the heart of Jacksonville appear abandoned, but by Saturday afternoon it will look more like a garden.
The Jacksonville Farmers Market is developing a learning garden at the lot to teach children and teens how to plant, grow, harvest and market produce. The local farmers began planning the development early this year and on Saturday they’ll invite young participants there to plant for the first time.
“It’s only natural to say that we have to teach the next generation,” said Aliza Yarden-Cummings, an organizer and area farmer.
By the time the garden takes root it will have a kid-friendly appeal, if it is developed as organizers have designed it, Yarden-Cummings said. Participants will use dismantled pallets as planting guides, she said, arranged so that the vegetables grow to form words and shapes instead of rows. Spare tires that lie in the dirt now will be painted and incorporated into the garden.
On Saturday, organizers will give participants seeds and a group of about a dozen local farmers will be on hand to teach them how to plant.
By the end of the growing season, children who attend each Saturday morning will have had the chance to learn about gardening in each phase of the planting and growing cycle, Yarden-Cummings said.
The event is open to children and teens between the ages of 2 and 17. They can register on-site Saturday.
The young gardeners will also get a return for their work, she added, by being invited to take some of the harvest home or to sell it at the Jacksonville Farmers Market.
The Learning Garden will be at the corner of Clinton Street and Chinnabee Avenue. A landowner allowed the growers to use the property, the city provided mounds of compost to to nourish the plants, Sears provided old pallets to build trellises for the plants to grow on and local farmers are donating seeds, Yarden-Cummings said.
The garden will be the first of its kind in Calhoun County, but learning farms and gardens have been successful elsewhere. Other organizations in Alabama and across the country have or are planning educational gardens. Many of the gardens are developed to teach participants how to grow healthy produce locally, including Jacksonville’s.
“Buy local, buy fresh,” Yarden-Cummings said. “If you don’t know what that means and you’ve never seen it in action, we’re not doing our jobs.”
Staff Writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @ LGaddy_Star.