I have been growing things since I was about eight years old and still to this day I find it fascinating the potential one tiny seed has. It all started with one small row of green beans that lined the path I walked to my door.
Since then I have added education to my love of growing things so I can share that love and inspire others to do the same. My Associate of Horticulture Technologies gave me a strong foundation in plant and soil science that is priceless in the work I do now. To help teach others, I earned a Bachelors in Agriculture Education and Professional Services. I am currently working on a Masters in Sustainable Food Systems so that I can gain a better understanding of how everything is connected and be more effective with my work.
I’m Chantal Mullen, a North Carolina transplant from New Hampshire, and I’m 30 years old. My family and I spent last year living in Roanoke, VA. While in Roanoke God led me to start a group called Seed2Seed (S2S). S2S is a community outreach garden program that is linking churches with the community through gardening. In Roanoke the community garden partners with a group called Community Outreach Program (COP). COP works with children and adults to teach a wide range of skills to the families and serves them a dinner as well. You can check out this link to see more about what they do.
We collaborate by coming once a month and inviting families to work with us in the kitchen. We cook healthy, from scratch meals, with raw ingredients that are not processed, and then we serve all the families that attend. In the current food system, churches are often left out of the discussion but have actually been doing food systems work before Food Systems was even a thing. This is where God has called me to walk the line and bridge connections to and throughout the Food System. Here is a link to our Facebook page to see some of what we are doing.
Our motto is “We plant in SOIL”, which stands for: Sowing Opportunity, Improving Lives. This means we not only look for opportunities to sow into the ground but in each other’s lives. We Improve Lives though personal experiences in and around the garden as well as through the use of the harvest that God gives to us to bless those in need. God showed me this through Jeremiah 29:4-7. We use Back to Eden gardening style- no watering, no chemicals, and heirloom varieties so we may save our own seeds for the next year! Here is a link to scientific evidence that backs up this style of gardening or farming.
Now that we have moved to back to NC, God has opened two doors for us to plant in the Piedmont Triad! The first of which is at Living Hope Church in Kernersville where about 5 acres of land have been given to us for farming. We are in the planning stages of land use now. We recently held an in house interest meeting for our core group of volunteers and the turnout was great!. A secondary open house (to the public) meeting was held February 27th for anyone in the community that may be interested in partnering with us in our overall goals.
Some of the areas we hope to incorporate on this land are beekeeping, vermiculture, cut flower production, outdoor classroom, a produce farm stand, a prayer garden, food forest, mushroom cultivation. All of these areas will be centered around hands on sustainable education for the community. I have made contacts with two local colleges to gain input on what we could implement that would be beneficial to their students. We are giving opportunities to anyone interested in learning how to do what we are doing. This location will also be acting as the main Hub for supplementing any new gardens until they are up, running, and producing. This is the case with the garden at Ward Elementary School.
The second is at Ward Elementary School in Winston Salem where we will be installing a garden on the school grounds. The school already has a back pack program and a food pantry was recently started due to the huge response for the back packs. The garden will serve as a teaching tool for math, science, health, food and nutrition education as well as sourcing food for the food pantry. There is collaboration of 4 churches that are supporting this project as well as the school itself.
We have already had a meeting with the engineer for the school board and will be meeting with grounds soon. I have also been working with a local grower for a donation of greenhouse space to start our tomatoes. I have been in contact with Lowes Home Improvement in hopes that they will choose Ward Elementary school as their once a year big project. Another contact I am trying to make is a chef from a community restaurant that sources food locally. This will allow us to put on taste tests for the children at the school with produce from the garden.
What we aim to accomplish is to bring the Piedmont community together through education, service, and partnership. Sustainable practices that close holes and gaps in areas like waste, education, and specific community needs are of high priority to us. Community building allows us to broaden our reach and resources so that more needs get met in the end for all. Ultimately we seek to partner with people and organizations in our community to serve and connect the Piedmont Triad area of North Carolina through agriculture
Vermiculture bin systems $100
Cinder blocks for composing area $200
Composting thermometers $50
Plastic for over winter low tunnels $1000
Metal hoops for over winter low tunnels $1155
Sand bags $200
Bins for harvesting $300
Wheel barrows $250
Pruning shears $120
Plant stakes $260
Plant ties $100
Plant labels $25
Small Shed for storage of tools $900
The time line for this project is spring 2016. Most of the items we need to start our main Hub which is in Kernersville. The plastic for over winter tunnels, and the metal hoops would be needed by September. This will ensure we can produce through the winter as well.
Blogpost and picture submitted by Chantal Mullen (USA) – c_flowers_nc[at]yahoo.com
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