Mayo Yowell Community GardenIn the spring of 2009, Madison Farm2Table, a project of Rural Madison, launched a Community Garden to provide families and youth groups with a place and guidance for growing their own food for themselves and/or to donate to the local food pantry and Senior Center.

The Garden is located on Rt. 29, near the center of Madison County and is fairly accessible. Up to 5 acres of arable land is available, as needed, although on depleted soils that now need soil amendments for better yields.

In the early years, 10-12 families and/or individual gardened small or large plots. In 2012, the year steering committee submitted and successfully received a $300 grant for the garden from the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC), there were 3 gardeners with 1/8 acre plots each, and 4 gardeners with several 4 X 8 foot raised beds each.

Most of the gardeners past and present (five gardeners are engaged in the Garden in 2014, to date) are growing food for their own use, but among those gardening in 2014, there is intention to donate either to the Madison Emergency Services Assn. (MESA) food pantry or the Madison Senior Center. Plots are free, with the restriction that garden produce is for personal use or donation, not for profit.

The Community Garden is restricted to plant-based pesticide and the use of herbicides are prohibited. Participants also sign agreements as pertains to liability and to maintain their plots in a variety of basic ways, including through soil improvement, although through which improvements is not specified at present. This year (2014), soil tests were conducted on key Community Garden plots for the first time and analyzed by Logan Labs in Ohio to ascertain soil deficits and amendment needs. Rural Madison recently received grants from Skyline CAP and the Northern Piedmont Community Foundation to continue soil tests and analysis.

In the past, the Garden used a few raised beds as demonstrations to teach sustainable gardening techniques. For two years, participants in the Madison Boys and Girls Club spent an hour each week at the garden learning about weeds and plants, root structures, bugs, and soil and ecological systems. The Club also provided cooking/nutrition classes once each week with a grant from Share Our Strength, which drew on children’s experiences in the Garden for developing recipes.

In 2012, the Club switched its attention to the Waverly Yowell Pizza Garden, due to this garden’s proximity to Club headquarters, next to Waverly Elementary School.  Madison Master Gardeners and volunteer teachers continue to assist Club participants in maintaining and learning from this Garden. At harvest time, Boys and Girls Club participants celebrate what is harvested from the Garden by conducting a Pizza Party, in cooperation with Pie in the Sky Pizza. Waverly Students and teachers also celebrate this harvest by having a Pizza Party in cooperation with Waverly Yowell food services. During the Waverly Yowell celebration, volunteer teachers are given an opportunity to visit the garden with Waverly Yowell students and discuss what was planted there, how it was planted and maintained, and key factors in the garden’s productivity success.

The land for the Community Garden has been provided by Mayo Yowell and his family. When Mayo died in 2012, the family decided to allow the Community Garden to continue as such, on their land, in honor of Mayo, who was an ardent farmer, agriculturalist, and teacher of adults and children. The Garden was then renamed in his honor, with a new sign, at a dedication ceremony in June, 2012. Twenty-five local community members attended the ceremony.

The Community Garden now has a small tool shed to house common tools, extra seeds, and other supplies for gardeners.

Current Plans: Plans for now (current time, summer 2014) is to start the process of mineralizing the soil and adding other soil amendments to improve the soil health. This is a critical component in measuring and analyzing the nutritional density of the crops to be grown there.

Plans also include planting a warm season cover crop in the soil of the large CommunityGarden plot parallel to Rt. 29. Then, with grant assistance and cooperation from the wider agricultural community in Madison County, including but not limited to mature-age ag-interested youth and their adult advisors, experts, and supervisors, Rural Madison Garden coordinators hope to launch a new learning phase in the Community Garden for ALL involved in the fall of 2014, harvesting or killing off the warm weather cover crop on the soil of this large plot, testing the soil again, then, per test analysis, adding soil amendments, including minerals from appropriate sources in local quarries, to the soil. This would be in preparation for planting a cool weather cover crop and, ultimately gauging the results of soil amendments on the value/values of the cool weather crop at the appropriate time. It should be noted that both the warm season and cool season cover crops will add much needed biomass to soil which will help build the soil structure and mitigate soil erosion issues.

The goals and objectives of these current plans are addressed in and embodied in this grant proposal.

Garden coordinators will seek advice and assistance from our local Cooperative Extension agent in every phase of these current plans. A major goal and objective is to provide a major learning opportunity for relevant youth groups in the County, possibly including but not limited to 4-H, Boys and Girls Club, Boy Scout and Girl Scout Troops, church youth groups and FFA participants and students, that will, in its results, serve as a pilot study in soil improvement that will benefit, first, in this initial phase, the Community Garden, but, ultimately, a wider range of farmers and gardeners in the County.