Saturday, July 20, 2024

Shared Earth: Community gardening and urban farming serve the heart of James City County

Gardening invokes a sense of wonder from a child to an adult and quenches the desire to create through observation and experimentation.  Nurturing plants helps us feel a sense of accomplishment and connection to the land and community. Research shows that growing your own food increases physical health and promotes a healthy lifestyle.  For these reasons and more, a group of dedicated and community-minded supporters has created a shared space in James City County called Williamsburg Community Growers (WCG).

Community gardeners at work. The garden is located between Warhill High School and the James City County Stadium.

Why start a community garden?

Williamsburg Community Growers’ vision is to grow Williamsburg’s healthy community food ecosystem. What started as a small garden space has grown into a thriving community garden, productive teaching farm, and unique outdoor education space meeting the first part of the WCG mission to educate the public regarding the benefits of producing and consuming locally grown produce.

Williamsburg Community Growers is a community growing space within a 10-acre site between Warhill High School and the James City County Stadium. The land is within the Dominion Energy power line corridor that has been repurposed for agricultural use, instilling a positive impact on the greening of the area.   

Getting schools involved

Students from local elementary and all three WJCC high schools and Merrimac Detention Center have been involved with seed starting, planting and harvesting. Currently, Warhill High School students have project-based learning on the farm and Jamestown High School students are volunteering on the farm for an AP Human Geography class food security service project. WCG has facilitated dozens of field trips and educational opportunities with local schools and participated in cooking classes with fresh farm produce.

Fresh produce benefits local families

During the 2018 harvest season, the farm donated over 650 pounds of fresh, locally grown produce to community organizations and food insecure families. Local schools have also benefited with farm fresh produce delivered to school cafeterias, allowing students to participate in the complete seed to table food system.

How can members of the community get involved?

WCG is currently expanding the community garden due to growing interest and meeting the second part of its mission to provide gardening space for the community. Community garden memberships at the WCG site are available for individuals and families. Plots are 10 by 20 feet and currently rent for $40 for the season beginning in March and running until mid-November. WCG provides water, compost and mulch. Fellow gardeners are happy to share advice and experience.

Volunteers working on a raised-bed that will make gardening more accessible for seniors and those with limited mobility.

Making gardening accessible to more people

Gardening has proven to be a rewarding recreational activity for all involved. Because gardening can benefit our physical, mental, and social wellbeing, it is important that people of all abilities are included in this enriching activity. WCG plans to build accessible gardens to ensure that everyone in our community has the opportunity to benefit from garden participation. The Williamsburg Community Foundation has provided initial funding for this effort to meet the third part of WCG’s mission statement: to promote healthy, sustainable lifestyles.

Promoting Conservation Practices

James City County has delivered more than 600 tons of leaves from curbside collections for composting to be utilized in soil enrichment, The Williamsburg Area Beekeepers are helping to establish a pollinator area to increase bee nesting habitat. Informational kiosks about these practices are part of an onsite environmental walking tour.

The farm uses storm water runoff from the Warhill High School complex that has been filtered and cleaned by two wetland systems and a restored stream. This water is then pumped from a retention pond on the WISC site for storage in two 2,500-gallon cisterns. The recycled rainwater is then distributed to community gardeners to water their plants through a gravity system. The farm vegetables are watered via a drip irrigation system using a solar-powered pumping station. Demonstrating and promoting conservation practices is the fourth part of WCG’s mission. Future plans include the addition of an educational wetlands observation area.  

Want to learn more?  

Come join us at our Farm Field Day on June 8 from 9 AM to noon at Williamsburg Community Growers on Stadium Road. We’ll have tours, educational activities and free family fun! For more information follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or visit our website.

Williamsburg Community Foundation is proud to support Williamsburg Community Growers, and many other organizations that improve the quality of life for local residents. Thanks to hundreds of local people like you, the Foundation has awarded over $6.8 million in grants and scholarships combined since 1999. Learn more about how you can apply for a grant or scholarship, or how the Foundation can help you make a difference through philanthropy HERE.


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