Spencer community garden has started life with no public money, plans to expand

Published 12:06 am Tuesday, June 28, 2022

SPENCER — On the far end of Salisbury Avenue, right next to New Edge Paint and Performance, there is a small collection of garden boxes, a produce stand and a bit of community vision.

Spencer planner Kyle Harris said the project rose to the top of the priority list for the town’s Community Appearance Commission when he started working with the town last year. At the time, the details had not been worked out. Amy Ray and Anthony Nero, who run Pinocchio’s Italian Restaurant spearheaded the project at the time.

Ray said she recommended the town look into working with Spencer Presbyterian Church, which owns the plot along Salisbury Avenue. The town struck up a memorandum of understanding with the church to use the property for the garden.

“It’s a good location because it’s right along Salisbury Avenue, a nice flat plot, has a lot of sunshine and it’s very accessible,” Ray said.

The garden now has a row of garden boxes, a free produce stand anyone can take from and picnic tables. Everything in the garden is the product of volunteer labor and donations.

Every garden box on the property is planted or maintained by a group. Growers can put out any produce they like on the stand for the community to take, free of charge. There is also a blessing box on site that functions as a small pantry built by a local Eagle Scout.

“I think it’s a great way to get the community to come together and a way to address food insecurity,” Ray said. “We can grow the produce and donate it right back.”

So far, some squash and cucumbers have been harvested from the garden. Some tomatoes are ripening right now.

Harris said the project has started to pick up momentum recently and credited the growing group of people who have made the project a reality. He told the Post a master plan is in the works for the project.

“We want to build out most of that property,” Harris said. “Not only with garden boxes, trellises and things like that. Also we’re going to put in an orchard for fruit trees, there’s going to be a gazebo for gathering, there’s going to be a central lawn for things like workshops and yoga.”

Harris said the development on the project will depend on the priorities of the volunteers and has spent none of the town’s money so far. The garden recently held a spring fundraiser that took in about $1,000 and added volunteers to the roster. It paid for the newest beds on the property and the picnic tables.

“If there is any through line on this story it is reliance on volunteer labor and coordination,” Harris said.

There is no timeline for the master plan, but Harris said the amount of volunteer interest in the project is pushing the CAC to get the plan ready in the coming month.

The town maintains a web page for the project with information for volunteers and donors at spencernc.gov/garden/.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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