HUNTSVILLE, Ala — Here at WZDX, we’re shining a light on the importance of food access and the impact the pandemic has had on food insecurity right here in the Valley.
There’s one local garden that hasn’t taken a day off over the past year or so.
They’ve been growing and delivering food for Madison County's most vulnerable population.
Our Sydney Stallworth takes us inside CASA Community Garden.
From cucumbers and green onions, to corn and fresh herbs, CASA Community Garden grows it all.
We met with Susan Lee, Garden Services Coordinator of CASA Community Garden. She tells us a little bit about what they grow. Lee says, “We have lima beans. We have green beans. We have pink-eyed purple-holed peas. We have two types of okra planted. We’ve got squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers.”
That's not even half of it, and all the food is going onto the tables of seniors in Madison County-- some of the people who may need it most, especially during the pandemic.
We got the chance to speak with Lauren Wilson Carter of CASA of Madison County. She sheds some light on the hardships some of our senior neighbors are facing. She says, “The average CASA client lives on about 14,000 dollars a year… Many of them don’t drive. Even if they do have a way to get to the store, they can’t afford produce because it’s very expensive. We have a lot of clients who have health issues, high blood pressure and diabetes. These fresh vegetables, nutritious vegetables, they can use to supplement their diets and it also keeps them healthier.
People in the Tennessee Valley are making it all possible, volunteering their time to help plant, harvest and deliver the organic produce.
Susan tells our reporter, “Lots of groups are starting to come now with the virus and vaccinations. We’re blessed to have them... For the first six or eight weeks of the pandemic, I had no volunteers and it was time to plant. So, I had to do a lot of the planting myself and got that done. But, then a lot of the volunteers started coming back. A lot of the students were doing school virtually so they could come.”
The garden is getting a lot of help from its honeybee friends. One local beekeeper donated two hives to the garden, and the busy bees work day and night to help pollinate the plants.
All the extra hands-- and wings-- are on deck as they come up on one of their busiest seasons.
Susan tells us, “June, July, and August is when we harvest the most and that makes work a little harder. Everybody has to show up prior to, and get things ready, get them in the cooler, bag them up and everything has to be ready to go out. Our wonderful volunteers, they do that too.”
Our team checked out the fruit trees, lettuce plots, even the compost area. Oh, and we can’t forget the garden’s automated farm robot!
Having access to fresh and affordable food is more important than ever during the pandemic. We asked if the average person could do some of this at home. Susan says yes! But, stick to growing whatever sounds good to you!
Susan Lee advises, “Grow the things you like the most. Grow small amounts of it to start.”
If you want to volunteer at the garden, just stop by during their open hours to sign up!
You can find the garden at 4725 Bob Wallace Avenue Huntsville, AL 35805.
Click HERE to find CASA Community Garden's open hours.