Gardeners from across the state assembled for the third annual N.C. Community Garden Partners annual conference on Oct. 25, in the Sherrill Center at UNC Asheville. This year’s conference focused on “Growing Garden Connections” with panels centered on creating opportunities for collaboration and partnerships between gardens as well as community organizations. The opening panel “Celebrations and Challenges” set the tone for the event as a number of community garden organizations shared their garden’s strengths and weaknesses while demonstrating their connections to the community.
This was Asheville’s first time hosting the statewide conference, where community garden and urban agriculture organizations from Asheville and Western North Carolina presented panels and presentations. A number of sessions delved into the nuts and bolts of operating a community garden with breakout sessions like “Dirt Made Our Lunch: Soil and Fertility for Community Gardens” and “Integrated Pest Management for Community Gardens.” But the main focus of the conference was that community gardens need to be oriented toward the communities where they are operating. Attendees and panelists discussed how to maximize community impact and effectively collaborate with one another as organizations.
While attendees were largely from North Carolina, communities from South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee were represented as well. The conference lunch provided an opportunity for attendees to exchange ideas and explore the workings of other community gardens. The conference featured a trade show with a number of vendors, agriculture service organizations and information from nonprofits — including Asheville’s own Bee City USA. The event concluded with a tour of the campus gardens at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.