Hattiesburg's Edwards Street Home Gardening Project Underway


By Debbie Bernardo, Board Member, Edwards Street Fellowship Center  


Until this year, Linda Stewart's gardening experience was limited to a tomato plant and a pepper plant she once raised in containers. This summer she hopes to harvest tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, greens and maybe even melons in beds 
Gardening 1
Colleen Mestayer, a USM graduate student, volunteers to work with the ESFC community garden project.
she will plant as part of the Community Home Gardening Project at Edwards Street Fellowship Center. Stewart is one of 25 participants in the pilot project, which has established 10 home gardening plots in southeast Hattiesburg to teach some of the food pantry clients how to grow their own food. The project is designed to supplement the food needs while promoting healthy eating habits and encouraging physical activity.


"Many of our food pantry clients have health issues," said Iva Brown, home garden coordinator at Edwards Street.  


"Problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and obesity are directly related to poor nutrition and lack of physical activity. We believe that this gardening project will address both of these issues.  Participants will reap vegetables from their plots, and they will reap the benefits of the exercise they get while tending their gardens."


Stewart's plot will consist of four 4 x 4 raised beds; the boxes have been set in place, she said.   She will learn the next step when the class meets again. "The classes are going well and

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Gardening Classes 

are very informative," Stewart commented. Teacher, Debbie Jackson of the Pine Belt Chapter of Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi covers basic gardening topics.  


Participants in the home gardening project must have suitable space on their property for at least an 8 x 10 foot lot, must live within 10 miles of the Edwards Street food pantry location and must commit to gardening for a minimum of two years. As part of the project, they attend training sessions and are expected to care properly for their gardens once they are planted. Experienced gardeners help plan what to plant each season, and Edwards Street provides seeds, fertilizer and bedding plants, as well as someone to till the soil.


Edwards Street staff will document and evaluate all aspects of the gardening project. If the pilot project is successful, plans are to expand the program.


Established in 1979 as an outreach ministry of the Hattiesburg District of the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church, Edwards Street Fellowship Center serves an urban community on the southeast side of Hattiesburg. The community consists of persons of diverse ages, races, resources and stages of life. The ministry is centered on the commitment to strengthening families and individuals and meeting special needs in the community. The ministry of ESFC is made possible through the financial contributions of the Mississippi Conference, area churches and individuals. Volunteers willing to give generously of their time, knowledge and experiences sustain the programs and services of the ministry.  For more information and to support Edwards Street Fellowship Center, visit http://esfcntr.org/.