A Thriving Garden Feeds Mind, Body and Spirit

2 minute read

On most weekends you will find volunteers gathered around a patch of land in east Winston-Salem with gloves and shovels.

The people are from all walks of life: Girl Scout troops, Winston-Salem Junior League members, retirees, master gardeners, and surprisingly, the patients of the Downtown Health Plaza in the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter. The outpatient clinic’s Goler Community Garden is not what one would expect to find in an urban setting but the outcome is clear—digging, planting and working side-by-side to grow fresh, local food is bringing people together.

Seeing the need for better nutrition and health for patients at the Downtown Health Plaza, retired physician and community volunteer, Elizabeth “Sissy” Gamble, M.D., and attending physician, Peter Lichstein, M.D., decided in 2009 that a community garden was needed. With the help of partners such as the Forsyth County Cooperative Extension and many others, the concept took on life and grew.

“The idea was to get patients working in the garden alongside the medical providers,” said Robert Jones, Ph.D., director of the Downtown Health Plaza. “The first year we grew eggplant and people didn’t know how to cook it, so we started including recipes with the produce which is brought inside for patients.”

The organic garden produces all year long with seasonal vegetables in 21 raised beds, including three blueberry beds, two strawberry beds, 25 container gardens and a flower-bed. The garden is increasingly attracting attention from outsiders including one Wake Forest University student who needed a project for the BB&T Young Leader program. The student and his group cleaned out the garden beds, built benches and a composter.

“It is not just about giving food to people, but an opportunity to help others,” said Jones. “People want to give back regardless of their circumstances.”

To volunteer in the garden, or make a monetary donation, contact Robert Jones at rejones@wakehealth.edu. The garden is located at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Patterson Avenue.

(Photo courtesy of YES! Weekly)