Community garden

Three quarters of a ton. That’s the yield of fruits and vegetables from a simple community garden on the grounds of the Southdown plantation house that ended up feeding the needy this season.

And the planters are at it again.

“We were making deliveries to the food bank every week, from the time we started harvesting in May until the very last run in September,” said volunteer Jill Haines, who helped birth the project, inspired by the St. Francis Vegetable Garden in Thibodaux.

Volunteers drawn from all walks of life and all ages in the community give their time to nurture tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, green beans, eggplant, squash, cucumbers and other gifts of the earth in raised boxes and traditional rows. They share with organizations like the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux’s Good Samaritan Food Bank, for distribution to others.

Anyone with an interest in learning more can visit the Southdown grounds from 8 a.m. to noon Sat. Oct. 29 for the garden’s agricultural field day. Visitors may, shop at a special artisan market, view various exhibits and listen to speakers. Topics will include growing vegetables, herbs, blueberries and details on hydroponic gardening.

“I just really enjoy it,” said garden coordinator and master gardener Cheryl Skinner. “I like gardening and helping people, so it is a win-win.”

“I enjoy the camaraderie of being out in the garden, meeting new people, other gardeners,” said Haines, who has greatly enjoyed becoming acquainted with members of the Terrebonne Garden club and other organizations.

Contributions have not been limited to those of bodies willing to work.

The garden club and other groups have given tools, hoses and other equipment.

Houma marine company executive Benny Cenac kicked in $10,000 to help with supplies and other costs.

“So many people would love to have their own garden, and if they don’t have the land they are growing in pots and even small spaces,” said Haines. “Everybody loves fresh produce.”

The garden was inspired by similar work being done in Thibodaux. There, the St. Francis Vegetable Garden has been a success since its beginning in 2013.

A big component of the effort has been a group of children from the Messiah Montessori School, who have also weeded, seeded and picked from the start.

“They are very helpful, they come in every week,” Skinner.

Children with various academic affiliations from elementary age to high schoolers – about 60 in all – have also played an important role in growing the garden along with its yield.

“I like their curiosity most of them have never planted anything, so they get to see from seeding until harvesting how the plant grows and then they get a chance to eat it, they get a chance to try it,” Skinner said.

Skinner said she hopes to expand so long as the volunteer bank exists.

“As long as we have the land we are going to continue planting,” she said.

Senior Staff Writer John DeSantis is a veteran journalist and author who grew up in New York City, but has spent most of his career in the Bayou Region. A specialist in criminal justice, he enjoys boating and historical research.

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