Community garden grows

A Catawba County community garden saw a 500 percent increase in its produce and support this harvest.

The county’s Help Our People Eat (HOPE) gardens harvested and delivered 5,071 pounds of vegetables and fruit this year, an increase of nearly 4,000 pounds from 2010.

“This year was a lot better due to the constant rain we had this year compared to last year,” said Christine S. Cofer, HOPE director and employee in the county’s finance department.

Cofer said that with the help of volunteers and contributors, HOPE’s three gardens had water available on site, contrary to prior years.

HOPE’s produce benefits area soup kitchens and food pantries in Catawba County.

This year, HOPE built a new garden at the Hickory YMCA, adding to its two already existing locations in Newton and St. Stephens.

Cofer said the HOPE gardens are completely operated by volunteers that can take a bag of vegetables or fruits home with them after they help out.

Food from the HOPE gardens benefits the Western North Carolina Epilepsy Association, Hickory Soup Kitchen, ECCCM and The Corner Table, among others.

HOPE harvested green beans, peas, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, okra, watermelon and cantaloupe this year, Cofer said.

“To me, I was really hesitant when I started it last year,” Cofer said.

“But after seeing how it has improved compared to last year, it has come together nicely.”

Cofer said middle school, high school and college students volunteered the most at the gardens.

“They were willing and excited about coming out and helping, and that made me excited and made me glad I pushed forward on this project,” Cofer said.

Cofer said a group of youth from Corinth Reformed Church in Hickory helped out every week over the summer until school started.

“It’s just nice to see that the interest is there,” Cofer said. “If you give the kids a chance, they are willing to help and work as well.

There is an interest out there in the community.”