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Gardeners gather for community

By Clay Wilson

The community garden at Heritage Park may look like a natural paradise, but Carolyn Runion says a lot of man-hours went into it.

"(Just be) 55 years or older and willing to work," she said when asked the requirements for obtaining a plot in the Heritage Village Community Garden. "Just be enthusiastic about gardening."

Runion certainly seems to have the latter down pat. A master gardener intern with the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service, Runion has both her own garden and a plot in the Heritage garden.

"I have a garden at home, so I don't need a lot of this," she said as she examined her pod-studded red okra stalks, "but I just enjoy it."

Runion joined Community Gardens of Henry County Inc., in its first year. She is one of 14 gardeners who work the Heritage Village garden, according to CGHC President Glenda Garris. At the group's other site, the Hooten Street Community Garden, there are about 10.

While the Hooten Street location is geared toward residents of that neighborhood, the Heritage Village Garden is for the public.

"It doesn't seem to matter what time of day you go, there's always somebody there," Garris said.

The gardeners also give back to the public. Garris said that so far this year, the group has donated about 300 pounds of produce to various food assistance organizations in the county.

But just as the garden takes a lot of work, it also takes a little money n money for seeds, plants, even soil. To help raise needed funding, Community Gardens of Henry County is planning a Fall Festival for Oct. 23 at the Heritage Village garden.

Garris said the festival is planned to include pumpkin sales from the garden's own pumpkin patch, mountain apple sales and children's activities.

"It's going to be fun," Runion said.

While the festival will focus on the Heritage garden, Garris said the group is looking at expanding to other areas of the county. If it does, maybe she'll be able to get her own plot n something she hasn't gotten yet.

"I just sponsor everybody else," she said. "I'd love to have one, but I didn't want to take up a plot if other people want them."