A community garden to grow in Morrow

Morrow officials are hoping to find a group of city residents who like to get dirty.

The central Clayton County city is known for its shopping centers, Southlake Mall, the National and Georgia archives, Clayton State University and the Spivey Hall concert facility, but city leaders are hoping to grow a new feature in the town — a community garden. It is part of an effort to make the city into a “Lifelong Community,” where people choose to live in the town from their childhood until they become elderly.

Tourism and economic development officials announced the garden, which will be located at the Morrow Station Park, which is located next to the Georgia Archives, at the corner of Ga. Hwy. 54, and Clayton State Boulevard. The two city departments are working together on the effort.

“This a community garden where all of our residents can participate, and this could truly be a wonderful lead-in to [Morrow’s lifelong communities initiatives],” said Morrow Business and Tourism Association President Mike Twomey.

The city was scheduled to host a organizational meeting to get the garden started on Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Morrow Tourist Center, 6475 Jonesboro Road, in Morrow. The garden will be paid for with “Lifelong Communities” funding from Kaiser Permanente and the Atlanta Regional Commission, according to Morrow Planning and Economic Development Director Michael McLaughlin.

“The idea is to create a program that would develop community pride, or civic pride,” he said. “What it does is it provides an opportunity for all citizens, not just seniors, to come together at a location to plant produce.”

The “Lifelong Communities” program is an Atlanta Regional Commission initiative that, while focused on all residents, is particularly directed at senior citizens. McLaughlin said the city is already on track to be named a “Lifelong Community” because of the community garden effort, and also because the city is building a walking trail that will loop around the city.

There several benefits — ranging from improved quality of life, to stimulated social interaction — for areas that start-up community gardens, according to the American Community Gardening Association. Some of these benefits include: The preservation of green spaces; the reduction of family food budgets; a catalyst for community development; a reduction in crime, and the creation of recreation and education opportunities.

Some foods and herbs that the American Community Gardening Association recommends people plant include: Carrots; eggplants; onions; oregano; peppermint; pumpkins; radishes; rosemary; strawberries; thyme and tomatoes. The group lists dozens more suggestions on its “Rebel Tomato” web site, www.communitygarden.org/rebeltomato/.

McLaughlin said it has not yet been decided what will be done with food grown in the garden, and he added that will be decided by the residents who choose to participate in the effort. There are a few options for what could be done with the food, however.

“Some community garden clubs ... chose to take that food home, some chose to provide it to needy families, and some chose to donate it to homeless shelters,” he said.

Call the Morrow Business and Tourism Association, at (770)968-1623, or the Morrow Planning and Economic Development Department, at (770)961-4002, for more information about participating in the city’s community garden.