A nonprofit in New Bern breaks ground soon on an organic garden maintained by disabled and homeless veterans.
The mission of the Veterans Employment Base Camp and Organic Garden is to reduce the unemployed and disadvantage veteran population and provide a pathway to work. Executive Director of non-profit group Lovay Wallace Singleton says the effort has multiple benefits.
"We are trying to increase the quality of life for disabled veterans by providing them exercise, rehabilitation and horticultural therapy."
Local homeless shelters, the New Bern Employment office, and veterans organizations such as American Legion and Veteran Service Officers help identify those who may qualify. Veterans accepted into the program are paid minimum wage and hired to plant, maintain and produce harvest. The Veterans Employment Base Camp and Organic Garden is also seeking volunteers to help at the Henderson Park in New Bern. The Garden is currently funded through individuals, group donations, and grant request. Fundraising events are also helping, the next is planned for January.
"It is Vets talk about Vets conversation and we are having veteran organizations come in and talk about the services they provide veterans and the issues that they see facing veterans in the local community. We are asking for a ticket donation of $20.00. We plan on using those funds to purchase tools and irrigation supplies. We need wheelbarrows, wagons and any item that a normal gardener would need. No pesticide though, we are going to be organic."
The Veterans Employment Base Camp and Organic Garden would like to start with 20 veteran gardeners. As time goes on, the organization hopes to hire more veterans.
"We are hoping to get about fifty over all but they’ll but working on a rotating shift and we’ll take all the volunteers we can get."
Singleton says some of the plants they’ll grow include lettuce, tomato, bell peppers, egg plant, lemon cucumbers and specialty crops including wheat grass. Produce that is grown in the organic garden will be sold at the site, at the New Bern farmers market, and distributed to local restaurants. Proceeds will be ploughed back into the garden.
The Employment Base Camp and Organic Garden recently signed a 5 year renewable lease with the City of New Bern for a 1.2 acre plot of land. Construction begins in spring of 2014.
"we plan on having two sheds, a hoop house which is a green house but used in-direct heating and cooling, we like to have a gazebo; we’re hoping to have 30 raise beds 20 of them which will be 4 ft high so they’re going to be kind of high so they will be accessible and 10 that we want to build are table style so that wheelchair veterans can access as well. We’re looking for ADA compliant that American Disability Act compliant walkway which means they have to be at a certain width. We’re going to have 2 cisterns on site for rainwater harvesting and also a Trellis walkway."
The Veterans Employment Base Camp and Organic Garden is working with many civic and government organizations such as the Craven county extension office, Craven Community College, the New Bern employment office, Chamber of Commerce, Cherry Point Single Marine and Sailors program, Habitat for Humanity and Religious Community Services. The plan is for the Henderson Park organic garden to completed by summer of 2014.
Here's a 3-D view of the plans for Henderson Park: