Rx Community Gardens Project gets lot donation, grant

PARKERSBURG – A garden is helping local people learn agricultural skills as a means to help in their recovery from substance abuse.

Community organizations have partnered with Try This West Virginia to fund a Rx Community Gardens Project for the Mid-Ohio Valley Fellowship Home of Parkersburg.

The effort has received a $2,695.30 grant from the Try This West Virginia organization. The Memorial Church of the Good Shepherd, at the corner of Latrobe and Charles streets, is donating the 15-foot by 125-foot lot for the garden near the church on Latrobe Street.

Try This is a community building organization that funds projects centered on healthy eating and healthy living. The Mid-Ohio Valley Fellowship Home operates a residency program to help clients remain clean and sober. A number of their residents will help build and then tend and care for the garden.

“This project will teach people how to take pride in cultivating and preparing their own food,” project organizer J. Morgan Leach said. ”Participants will learn skills that enable them to support their families and seek employment in agriculture, which will hopefully result in successful recovery and fewer tax dollars spent on treatment.”

Organizers are planning on building 10 raised garden beds.

”The goal is to do a late fall crop,” Leach said. ”We are going to plant things like Brussels sprouts, kale, carrots, beats, radishes … things that do well in the fall and the cool weather. A lot of people don’t realize that you can garden through the fall. Here we can.”

Other partners in this project include the West Virginia Hemp Farmers Cooperative, WVU Extension Office in Wood County, Jackson County Master Gardeners, Mother Earth Foods, Jim Leach L.C., J&J Property Development, M.A.D. in the M.O.V., Jubilee Soils, Paradise Farms, and Lowe’s in Vienna.

Participants from the Mid-Ohio Valley Fellowship Home will be taking classes from the Master Gardeners learning how to grow and prepare their own food.

”Those from the Fellowship Home are working with us from step-one, all the way through a fall garden we are going to have,” Leach said. ”The guys and gals from the Fellowship Home will be able to learn what they are doing as they are doing it.”

The Memorial Church of the Good Shepherd has an active food pantry, said the Rev. Marjorie S. Bevans. Members who garden have provided vegetables to the food pantry and to those in the surrounding neighborhood who wanted fresh vegetables.

”We are encouraging people in the neighborhood to see people out there gardening and that it is easy enough for people to do,” she said. ”All it takes is a little work and preparation. We are involved in encouraging youth to learn how to garden and how to cook fresh produce. We have several ministries aimed at that.”

The garden and some of their ministries have the aim of helping lift people up to be able to stand on their own and contribute something to the community, Bevans said.

”It is to encourage people that they can do things for themselves,” she said. ”For the people in recovery, this is going to be good in rebuilding their self-esteem and contributing something back to the community. It is very exciting for our neighborhood.”

Leach said they have partners to help with projects, like the garden, they have going on in the area. Contractors and others have provided expertise to be able to get things up and running.

Local attorney Jim Leach, Morgan’s father, was able to help secure the services of a general contractor and skilled labor to help build a shelter and put up a fence.

”This way all the grant money can go toward materials,” Jim Leach said.

With the money they are saving, they can purchase picnic tables and will be able to use a longer lasting cedar to construct the raised beds, he said.

”This should be here for a while,” Jim Leach said.

The state’s leadership has been looking for new economic opportunities and agriculture has been getting a lot of attention by the political leadership in Charleston.

”There is a political interest in developing this kind of opportunity for people, even on a small scale like this,” Jim Leach said. ”We think this lot will be very productive.”

The garden can provide opportunities for people to better themselves, Morgan Leach said.

”We can use good nutrition and gardening to help in recovery from substance abuse,” he said. ”This is something people can take pride in the work they are doing and really learn a lot.

”Hopefully, once they graduate from their treatment program, they can start growing their own gardens for their families or seek employment in agriculture. A lot of relapse comes from the lack of opportunity. We are trying to provide new opportunity,” Morgan Leach said.