Gardening Know How Sponsorship Recipient: Rural Neighborhoods

Gardening Know How's School and Community Garden Sponsorships was fortunate enough to help support 10 gardens with a $1,000 each. The gardens selected represent a small portion of the multitude of school and community gardens out there, and we are excited to share each of their stories with you. Once a month we will be highlighting one of our sponsorship recipients so that you, too, can see how wonderful and worthwhile these amazing gardens are. This month we are featuring Rural Neighborhoods. Rural Neighborhoods is a nonprofit housing and community development organization serving more than 1,600 low- to moderate-income families throughout southwest Florida with a focus on rural areas. To get a feel for where they operate and the people they help, let's take a look through their perspective: "Think for a moment about the traditional image of rural America: close-knot communities where people are hard working and independent, small towns replete with family and friends, places where hard times are met by resilience and strength. Then think about neighborhoods across our nation where life is a constant struggle to get by, jobs are scarce, schools are marginal and it seems like there's nowhere to turn." Here 4 in 10 households fall below poverty lines. Here funds are limited and hope diminished. And it is here where Rural Neighborhoods focuses their time, resources and compassion. After pulling together much needed funds, they were able to purchase the rental property, which fell into disrepair over several decades under its prior ownership. This past fall, they began renovations. Housing, however, isn't their only mission. Residents that once had access to a community garden are now met with nothing more than an inoperable, vacant lot. But with the help of Gardening Know How, they are hoping to change this. The garden, surrounded by only a foot-tall fence, lacks the nutrient-rich soil for growing healthy plants. The sponsorship funds will go towards the purchase of tools, seeds and other gardening-related items. By installing new raised beds filled with fresh soil along with a handicap accessible gardening space, Rural Neighborhoods hopes to create a place where people can once again live and grow, thrive and prosper. Garden construction is currently in the works but, again, their mission hasn't stopped there. Not only will local families have a plot within the community garden to grow their own crops, but Rural Neighborhoods has partnered with their local extension office to provide educational programs that help individuals successfully grow fruits and vegetables, and then incorporate those into recipes that promote healthy living. Over time, the community garden will become a place where residents can once again interact with one another"¦rebuilding trust and forming lifelong friendships with newfound hope. Growing gardens isn't just a pastime. It encompasses all people across the globe, including those small rural areas you may have passed through. Gardening has a way of bringing people together, lifting their spirits, teaching life skills and more. We are excited to be a part of that.

Nikki Tilley
Senior Editor

Nikki Tilley has been gardening for nearly three decades. The former Senior Editor and Archivist of Gardening Know How, Nikki has also authored six gardening books.