August 8th, 2011

Amid news that nearly one-third of Alabamians received food stamps during May, we wanted to highlight some of the work our Higher Education Members are doing to increase food security in their communities.

We recently visited with Dennis and Dean Itson of Faulkner University, who showed us their community garden.

When asked what the garden’s mission is, Director of Service-Learning Dennis Itson replied, “Our mission is to feed the elderly and those in need.”

Nearly 100 senior citizens live in apartments adjacent to the university. In addition to feeding them, the garden serves as a form of therapy and spiritual renewal too.

The garden also serves the educational needs of nearby elementary schools and college science classes, who go to the garden to learn about science and conduct experiments

Dennis stresses the vital role that volunteers have played in the success of the garden. “People have volunteered their time, seeds, plants, money, tractors, and even their land to make this garden a reality and success,” states Dennis. Volunteers include students, faculty and staff, and even local residents, schools, churches, and community groups.

The garden sits upon a 70 x 35 foot plot. It includes corn, cucumbers, eggplants, green beans, okra, onions, peppers, rosemary, squash, watermelons, and others vegetables, and has helped feed nearly eighty residents.

Dennis holds big plans for the garden’s future. He plans to increase its size by adding a second plot of land. Faulkner will also offer a gardening class in the fall.

All in all, our trip to the garden proved a great success. Who would have known that such a simple idea would spark such a successful response? In addition to learning about the garden and its achievements, Dennis also taught us a thing or two about gardening. Dennis has a big heart, and he loves his community. We thank him for hosting us and for sharing with us the garden.

To learn more about the garden, check out these news reports: WFSA 12 News Montgomery and theMontgomery Advertiser.

To learn more about community gardens, check out these resources.

To learn more about poverty and food insecurity in Alabama, check out this resource.