By RONDA GREGORY
News & Journal Staff Writer
Shinnston’s Community Garden on Pike Street in the downtown area continues to produce fresh vegetables for people in the area.
Lee Reger, a volunteer and Master Gardener who heads up the community project, said the garden’s fall bounty is plentiful now with regular cabbage, Chinese cabbage, peas, broccoli, kale and leaf lettuce ready for the picking.
Reger explained that fall crops – those that are frost-resistant – are doing well.
“We’re still producing,” he said. “The fall garden is just now coming into full swing.”
All the produce from the garden goes to The Lord’s Pantry, the local food bank, Reger said.
The garden, located in a lot owned by the First United Methodist Church, was first created and planted last spring.
From the summer harvest, the garden’s yield helped supply the pantry with fresh squash, tomatoes, green beans, peppers and “lots and lots” of cucumbers, Reger noted.
Amid the brilliant and soft green shades of the fall vegetable plants, there are fluffy bunches of brilliant autumnal colors of umber, orange and yellows. The gardeners had added in some just-for-the-eyes plants – mums. Reger said they planted the decorative flowers to honor and thank the Shinnston Garden Club for their financial support for the garden.
“We thought it would be nice to do a little beautification as well as food,” he said.
The garden came about through an almost $18,000 “Growing Healthy Communities” grant, which helped launch the “Shinnston Thrives” project, said Assistant City Manager Travis Blosser. He added that Jill Fratto wrote the grant and was the volunteer project manager for the “Thrives” initiative.
Reger said the garden is a pet project that he loves and that he was more than willing to tackle.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and everybody knew that,” he said. “So I took it on.”
Reger belongs to the Harrison County Master Gardeners, which is part of WVU Extension Service. His wife, Phyllis Reger, and daughter, Rebecca Pilger, are also Master Gardeners with the group. They, too, volunteer their help and expertise for the garden.
Reger is quick to say the garden is a joint community effort with many people and organizations involved in making the garden grow – literally and figuratively.
“It was a real community effort,” he said.
The Harrison County Master Gardeners group has been extremely supportive financially and also through their physical efforts in helping maintain the garden, he said.
Reger was especially pleased that so many young people in the community have and are participating in the garden’s success. He said more than 10 youth groups helped with all phases or facets of making the garden project run smoothly – from preparing the ground to planting and harvesting.
Some of the youth groups involved are the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, FFA (Future Farmers of America), some 4-H members, several youth church groups and the Lincoln High School seniors’ Lincoln Leadership club.
“I think one of the important things, we, as Master Gardeners, can do is educate the youth on food production,” Reger said. “If there’s one thing we want to do, it’s to get more youth involvement.”
The garden has been a major success and will keep on yielding nature’s healthy food source, he reports.
“We’ve contributed more than 700 pounds of produce so far,” Reger said. “And we’re not finished yet.”