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WIGGINS: Some ideas on how to grow green this year

Connie Wiggins

Connie Wiggins

At Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful, we strive to educate, advocate and inspire our neighbors to pursue green living through a combination of reducing, reusing and recycling; preventing litter and graffiti; beautifying our community; and more. Of course, one of the ultimate methods for supporting sustainability within the Gwinnett County community is to Grow Green. Here are a number of ways that you can begin growing a few shades greener this year:

Start small – personal gardens

Whether you live in an apartment or condominium with a balcony that’s ideal for your own container garden or you live in a home with a nice backyard for growing a variety of herbs, fruits and vegetables, the point is the same – you can grow your own personal garden and support sustainability in small, but meaningful ways.

If you’re just getting started, it’s wise to enlist the aid of an expert – either someone in the know at your local nursery or a professional gardener/landscaper – in order to learn the best herbs and vegetables to grow in your own little corner of the world. Be prepared to answer questions with regard to sun vs. shade and the amount of time, effort and money you’re willing to invest in this endeavor. If you have the space, consider adding a rain water collection system to aid with watering your garden. Be sure to use eco-friendly fertilizers and pesticides to help your garden grow.

Kick it up a notch – community gardens

In the event that you don’t have the room to spare or your outdoor living space isn’t conducive to the growth of a personal garden, you may want to take part in a local community garden. Residents of Norcross, Lilburn, Suwanee, Snellville and Sugar Hill all have access to municipally- or volunteer-run community gardens.

The Lanier Community Garden was developed by Gwinnett County Water Resources in 2009 as a place where locals could grow fruits and vegetables for their families. It also supports local food banks and other charitable organizations. Located at 2601 Buford Dam Road on the grounds of the Lanier Filter Plant in Buford, the garden features nearly 80 individual plots. Its administrative board presents classes, hosts fundraising events, and coordinates onsite activities such as tilling, grounds maintenance and composting. The board also makes certain that participants are in compliance with the garden rules and by-laws.

There are separate sections for traditional and organic gardening, and a limited number of small and large plots are available for nominal annual fees. Memberships are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis – with preference given to Gwinnett County residents.

If Buford is too far to travel to regularly maintain your plot or you aren’t a resident of one of the communities listed above, you may want to begin researching other community gardens near you or start your own community garden. Contact the schools around you to learn if they have a community garden you can help support or start scoping vacant lots in your neighborhood/local community where you might develop one.

Community gardens serve as a wonderful way to get to know your neighbors. Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful is working to generate a list of community gardens in our county, so once you get yours off the ground – be sure to let us know at gwinnettcb@gwinnettcb.org.

Support local Farmers Markets, produce stands and farms

If you simply weren’t blessed with a green thumb, there are still a number of ways that you can support sustainability and your local farmers at the same time. A number of Gwinnett County’s cities – such as Dacula, Lawrenceville, Lilburn, Norcross, Snellville and Suwanee – host Farmers Markets, and – in between – it’s not unusual to find a pop-up produce stand stocked by a local farmer.

These all serve as terrific resources for fresh fruits and vegetables, and sometimes even specialty items like honey, jams, soaps, fresh baked goods, cheeses, eggs, hormone-free meats and more. Gwinnett Locally Grown is an online farmers market hosted by Rancho Alegre Farm in Dacula that offers its members access to order locally grown produce and products online for pick-up at Rancho Alegre. Items offered are provided by a network of local farms, including Legacy Alpaca Farm in Loganville, Smokin’ Buns Baked Goodness in Grayson, Rancho Alegre Farm in Dacula and other farms outside of Gwinnett County.

Additional co-ops like Fresh Harvest GA and Big Organic Garden also offer locally grown produce for pick-up or delivery to your home. Some local farms – such as Washington Farms in Loganville and Watkinsville – are open to visitors for strawberry-blueberry-blackberry picking, seasonal events, field trips, birthday parties, and more. Spending a day at a farm as a family is not only a wonderful way to pick up some farm fresh produce, it’s also an awesome introduction to the concept of sustainability and the importance of supporting local farmers to a younger generation.

Experience farm-to-table cuisine

In keeping with a thriving community like Gwinnett County, we have more than our fair share of fine dining establishments and talented chefs. Many have embraced the growing trend towards farm-to-table menus. Here are just a handful of great local restaurants and markets to try that support their local farmers: Taqueria Del Mar and Ten Bistro in Peachtree Corners, Bleu House Market in Norcross, Graft in Grayson, and Local Republic and The Georgia Pine in Lawrenceville. If you know of other great farm-to-table experiences in Gwinnett County, please send them our way at gwinnettcb@gwinnettcb.org.

Connie Wiggins is Executive Director of Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful.