November 15, 2023 at 6:00 AM

A former overgrown lot on Forsyth Street has recently been given the chance to sprout new growth as a community garden.

Carl Myers, a community activist who works with Fathers Among Men, said the creation of a community garden has been on his mind for years.

“This is kind of a dream come true,” he said. “The goal is to have a community garden and a space where kids can learn agriculture. They’ll also be hands-on with the different projects that we have out here and just a nice, attractive place in the middle of the community.”

While Myers was in prison, he was introduced to the author Supreme Understanding and the idea of a community garden was born. When he got out of prison in 2016, he continued to read books by Supreme Understanding and followed him on social media.

He reached out to the author and invited him to come to Macon. The two bought the land for the community garden together. Supreme Understanding is also starting community gardens in Stockbridge, Georgia, and Atlanta.

Myers followed land auctions and the Macon-Bibb County Land Bank Authority to find the spot that just made sense for his purposes, he said. He works out of the Booker T. Washington Community Center, and he teaches chess at L. H. Williams Elementary School. The lot for the community garden is less than a mile from both locations.

“We want it to be family-oriented, of course, dealing with nature and agriculture and also education,” Myers said. “We would like the kids in the community to keep this up, as well as, be able to benefit from it.”

Myers hopes they will produce their first crop in 2024, but first, he plans to have three more major cleanups on the property. The next cleanup will be on Tuesday, Nov. 21 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., and Myers welcomes all volunteers.

They also need volunteers to help build raised beds as well as tables and chairs for the space. He is trying to get young people involved in the projects so they can learn different trades.

“For the first clean up, we had about 20 youth that was out here. That was their first time partaking in a cleanup, learning anything about garden tools and just being outside and getting connected with nature through the agriculture,” Myers said. “I think it’s good. Anything to get the kids outside, show them a new trade and just get them away from technology a little bit, I think it’s beneficial to them.”

The ultimate goal is to get the Macon-Bibb County government involved and open community gardens in different locations across the county, Myers said. Macon-Bibb County has a handful of community gardens that provide fresh produce to food banks and the local community.

Bibb County Community Gardens Map:

They have already partnered with Keeping Macon-Bibb Beautiful, which donated supplies for the cleanup, and they hope to secure grant funding in the future, he said.

Research shows that community gardens increase the nutrition of participants, improve communities and encourage solutions to community issues other than food insecurity.

Macon-Bibb County had a 14% food insecurity rate in 2021, which was higher than the state average of 10.7%, according to estimates by Feeding America. The rate has decreased substantially in Macon-Bibb County since 2017 when it was at 21.8%.

Macon-Bibb County residents also suffer from a high percentage of obesity with 39% of people age 20 or older being diagnosed with the disease, according to the North Central Health District’s 2022 Community Health Assessment. Obesity increases the risk of other ailments, such as coronary heart disease and stroke. However, the county had one of the highest percentages of the population (75%) that had adequate access to exercise opportunities, which was congruent with the state average.

Myers believes the community garden could be a solution to food insecurity and blighted properties.

“Producing our own food, healthy food, is definitely beneficial to the community. Also, I know from doing food give-aways the scarcity of food in the community,” Myers said.

Repost; Original Post appears here:

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