James Pinsky: Growing our future, one community garden at a time

James Pinsky

There are a lot of ways to build a community. We here at the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District like using broccoli, cucumbers and tomatoes.

We like it so much that we, along with other local community stakeholders like the Town of Strasburg, the Virginia Cooperative Extension, Northern Shenandoah Valley Master Gardeners, Strasburg High School, some local churches and other youth organizations are using veggies to help the people in and around Strasburg make a difference in the availability of locally grown, literally garden-fresh foods for their families by establishing a community garden in Strasburg.

Sound expensive? It is. But it’s totally worth it, so much so that we received a $50,000 grant to do it. The Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District is one of 19 districts in 14 states awarded a National Association of Conservation Districts grant to boost technical assistance capacity for urban agriculture conservation projects, like this community garden.

“The Lord Fairfax District is surrounded by agriculture, yet there are still many in need of local, healthy food,” said Alison Sloop, conservation specialist with the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District. “This urban agriculture conservation project will harness the power of public-private partnerships to bring local food to those in need, enhance the education of local youth, and empower the community to be engaged and committed to their locality’s sustainability.”

The money will help pay for the equipment, supplies, and technical expertise and training necessary to establish, facilitate and grow the project.

“We saw an opportunity for the district to make an impact and to create new partnerships and jumped on it,” said Sloop. “We believe the best work happens when people come together and work collaboratively. We’re thrilled we received this grant and are excited to see the community and partners here in Strasburg come together.”

While healthier living and community cohesiveness are great benefits from the community garden project, there are several conservation-minded advantages as well. One example is the amount of education and awareness we will help facilitate toward having and maintaining good soil and water quality. As people learn how to grown their own food, the need for rich, fertile soil and clean, plentiful water become intrinsic to a gardener’s success, and in turn empower a greater sense of urgency toward our conservation best management practices.

We here at the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District take great pride in our ability to not simply educate but empower our residents toward understanding and conducting soil and water conservation best management practices which ultimately minimize and someday eliminate non-point source pollution in our community. These practices can be applied by a homeowner with their lawn, a gardener with their vegetables, businesses, and of course our agriculture community.

We are eager to work with our partners to build and facilitate the community garden in Strasburg. After all, the seeds we plant will grow a lot more than food we eat, it will also grow food for thought.

James Pinsky is the education and information coordinator for the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District.  Contact him at 540-465.2424, ext. 104, or james.pinsky@lfswcd.org. Visit us at www.lfswcd.org or follow us on Twitter https://twitter.com/lfswcd.