Food / NonProfit

Cultivating a Crunchy Columbia Culture

It’s alliteration day! (just kidding)

This Fall, it has been a pleasure to loosely work with Stephen Gibbs as he brings Square Foot Gardening to Columbia.  Mr. Gibbs is the Southeast Ambassador for the Square Foot Garden Foundation.  The association started in Utah, saturated the West Coast, spurred the local/organic food movement and recently moved its headquarters to Columbia, South Carolina. The ultimate goal is for people to take charge of their health.  To change the community and culture through community gardening. Now, I’m the first to admit I’m not a pro when it comes to healthy eating (I’ve had Food Inc. sitting on my desk for three months because I’m too chicken to watch it).  But Mr. Gibbs makes me want to make better choices. He’s working to bring all 108 of Columbia’s communities on board. Columbia residents are currently doing raised bed gardens in 9  locations throughout the city, and Parks and Recreation is looking at Square Foot Gardening as a method to implement in the 8-9 additional approved gardening sites in Columbia. Mr. Gibbs hopes to share the Square Foot Garden Method with them to increase their food production. To be affective, each plot has to have at least one person dedicated to overseeing the garden and building relationships in their neighborhood to teach and promote healthy eating.

Lots of people are already sold on the idea. Richland School District One is in agreement with Sustainable Midlands to have gardens at district middle schools. (The Square Foot Garden Foundation successfully did this in every elementary school in Utah.) College campuses are also on board. Benedict College and Columbia College are bringing gardens to their campuses and to the Eau Claire community next semester, and USC already has a program going with their honors students.

Interested in Helping? Right now Transitions (the new homeless shelter at the corner of Main and Elmwood) needs a point person to make their square foot gardening project on-going.  Also, the gardens to be put in the Gonzales Gardens community could use some more volunteers.

Can you Commit?  For each new plot, there has to be a passionate, dedicated individual willing to spend time in the neighborhood. If the person overseeing the plot doesn’t know how to grow, isn’t passionate about food, and can’t pass on the enthusiasm, there is no push for change and the garden location fails. Volunteers must make it personal.  Cultural change typically requires personal relationships and some sort of relational accountability. Sound intimidating? Don’t worry! Mr. Gibbs wants you to succeed and will train you.

Square Foot Gardening certainly isn’t the end-all solution to Columbia’s health issues. But it can encourage people to make better decisions. As Mr. Gibbs says– Food culture has begun to catch-up with the information that we have regarding food, but we are far from being caught up.

Contact Mr. Gibbs at GardenRen@yahoo.com and friend him on Facebook.

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