In North Carolina, a rural community garden grows into something unexpected: A cure for the unhealthy teenager.
In 2005, Anathoth Community Garden was just an empty field, a group of strangers, and an idea. Church and community leaders in Cedar Grove, N.C., wanted to start a community garden as a way to strengthen their rural community, but didn't have a firm plan for how to get started. I was the eager new garden manager who the local Methodist church hired to get it all going, a transplant to this one-stoplight hamlet. Not content to start small and expand slowly, I decided we needed to dig an entire acre-and-a-half of raised vegetable beds. By hand. Our members were initially enthusiastic. But many were aging, obese, or suffering from mental illness. If I was going to get this garden built, I needed strong backs. That’s when I discovered the endless source of free labor known as community service volunteers.