Norma Baynes was born and raised in Asheville’s Shiloh neighborhood. As an adult, she moved to Maryland, where she lived for 40 years before deciding to return home in 1996. “I moved back to the same street I was raised on,” she says. A few years later, she helped to found the Shiloh Community Organization. In 2004, the Shiloh Community Garden was born.
“It was very important that we start a garden where people could come and access food,” explains Baynes. “We give our food to the community. We don’t ask people to pay for it. Economically a lot of people can’t afford certain things. With a garden, people could come pick it themselves,” she says. The garden grows herbs, greens, tomatoes, peppers, squash, okra and so much more. “These days people eat a lot of fast food,” says Baynes. “Healthy food is very important.”
In addition to an amphitheater and outdoor pizza oven, the garden also has a roadside stand that sells crafts made by the local community. But Baynes says that her favorite thing about the garden is that it’s a place where children can come and learn. “It’s amazing when I go to the garden and they’re cutting up fruit for a fruit salad. You want to see kids eat fruit!” says Baynes. “They learn to cook vegetables and they learn about why they should eat vegetables and not always fast food.”
Baynes adds that the kids who work in the garden also get a taste of environmental stewardship. “We have a creek that runs through the property and we monitor the water,” says Baynes. “The kids learn about the environment and the creatures in the water. We are teaching our children about the importance of the environment and that they are a part of it.”