‘We grow food and we grow community’: The Daily Tar Heel

Jun 1, 2023

The Hillsborough Community Garden, accessible from Hillsborough’s riverwalk, houses 4,500 square feet of planted produce. Cabbage, kale, chard, onions, radishes, lettuce, peppers, cilantro, cucumbers, tomatoes, squash and more are all organically grown and harvested without artificial pesticides, according to the garden’s website.

“It’s beneficial for the health of the people, the recipients, but also for the native plants, the native bugs and pollinators,” Katherine Lockwood, garden manager, said.

After the organic produce is harvested, it is packaged and delivered to PORCH Hillsborough, with whom the garden has partnered with to provide fresh food to the community.

PORCH Hillsborough, founded in 2011, is a volunteer-based hunger relief organization whose efforts are concentrated in rural northern Orange County. 

The organization runs a variety of programs aimed at eliminating food insecurity, including the PORCH Fresh Program, which was implemented in 2022 to forge partnerships with local farms and bring fresh produce to those in need in the Hillsborough community. 

“We realized early on that we have enough to do with growing the produce, so why not partner with PORCH, who has already excelled in distributing produce,” John Beerman, head of the Hillsborough Community Garden, said.

Beerman also said that the farm would not be where it is today without the support of WWOOF, or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.

According to the organization’s website, USA WWOOF connects individuals to organic farmers across the country. Once connected, “WWOOFers” live and work on farms with their hosts to learn about organic agriculture.

“The shared goal (of WWOOF) is to educate people about organic farming,” Lockwood, a “WWOOFer,” said.

She said that working on the Hillsborough Community Garden as being a from-the-ground-up process that has exposed her to all aspects of organic farming.

In total, the Hillsborough Community Garden has donated 132 bags of produce, including lettuce, kale, chard and radishes, to PORCH. PORCH further estimates that its Fresh Program serves 150 families every month. 

“In Orange County, we really think that we are an affluent county, and we are, but we have a lot of disparities in our county and hidden pockets of poverty and food insecurity that, I think, a lot of times go unnoticed,” Molly DeMarco, an assistant professor at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, said. 

DeMarco said that food insecurity can have negative physical, emotional and social consequences.

“Lack of access to enough money for food really impacts all different parts of life,” she said. 

In addition to combatting food insecurity, the Hillsborough Community Garden also strives to build community.

Beerman said Saturdays in the garden are spent with volunteers in a collaborative space, where they not only plant seeds and pull up weeds but also exchange ideas for the betterment of the garden and community. 

“It’s a garden, but it’s also a community space,”  he said. “We grow food and we grow community.”

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

By Grace Whittemore

June 1, 2023 | 9:34pm EDT

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