November 18, 2012
Written by Heather Isaacson
Photographs by Heather Isaacson, Susan Fraysse and Joseph Geierman
In early 2009 talk began on transforming some parts of the Doraville area for Gardens. Susan Crawford was the voice behind the Oakcliff movement and Dick Suever was the one behind the Northwoods garden. During the Spring and Summer a group began to form to ask the City Council to help us create these Community Garden locations. On June 1, 2009 the City issued a motion to create the group that became known as Doraville Unity Gardens (DUG). In July 2009 we had our first work day to plant at both the Oakcliff and Northwoods sites. Susan & Ben Crawford, Susan Fraysse, Chris & Carol McNair, Yajaira Weiner-Huice, Lee Flier and Heather Isaacson were the original group that started the gardens. Lee Flier, our resident Doraville permaculturalist, was instrumental in getting us started. She helped lay out the swales that were created at the Oakcliff site and provided oversight as we designed the bed layout at Northwoods. Ben Crawford & Tim Isaacson built the first beds at the Northwoods site.
In March of 2010 we held our first event at the Northwoods site with “Foster a Seed”, where kids in the neighborhood were encouraged to come and plant a seed that they could take home and nurture. They then brought them back at the end of April for planting at both garden sites. The Oakcliff site produced some amazing plants that summer, but unfortunately no produce! In August of 2010 we had another event at the Northwoods site to repair the beds that were run over by a vehicle and to plant a Fall crop. We let both gardens go dormant for the Winter. In 2011 we began to focus primarily on the Northwoods site. The Oakcliff site could not be seen from the road and it was more difficult to get the neighbors involved. The Northwoods site was more visible and there were a number of families from the neighborhood that were participating regularly. We have many neighbors who have invested in the Northwoods Garden. Lou Jenkins provides us with Sweet Potato slips, Chris Avers has given us many plants and advice. Evelyn Whalen provided heirloom tomato plants. Nancy Hamman has hauled more water than any of us can imagine! Trudy Dean generously gives us many plants that she germinates at home.
In the Fall of 2011 we were contacted by the Dekalb County Board of Health. They had heard about our fledgling group and wanted to help us work towards getting a grant. We did not succeed in getting the grant, but it did lead to a proclamation by the City of Doraville and our participation in International Food Day. We had our first Picnic with Scarecrows in honor of Food Day. Various civic groups within the community made and displayed scarecrows at the Northwoods site. We gathered and enjoyed a treasure hunt of digging up sweet potatoes with a number of children in the neighborhood.
In 2012 we focused on finding a water source for the Garden. Since its inception we had relied on neighbors taking turns filling up gallon milk jugs to provide water for the plants. Nancy Hamman was able to find some abandoned containers that could be used for storing rain water. Richard Weiner and Tim Isaacson hauled them to the site. Bruce Herr finally got them to work about mid summer. It was another step in making the garden sustainable. Bruce also gave many hours to the garden this summer and tended a very fun pumpkin patch for us all to enjoy.
2012 also brought us Nelle Couret, a PhD student at Emory and a resident of Northwoods. She approached us about using the garden site to conduct an experiment on the Kudzu bug. We were excited to partner with her. She added 4 new beds to the site and provided an educational opportunity for all of us. We look forward to hearing the results of the study in the next few months.
Our family moved to Northwoods in 2008. The Community Garden has been a great way for us to meet our neighbors and work alongside them. Our sons have learned invaluable lessons planting, caring and harvesting at the garden. It has taken many people along the way to make this work. Some put a lot of effort into helping us get started, others have worked to sustain it. Yajaira Weiner-Huice, Susan Fraysse and myself have greatly enjoyed seeing DUG neighbors come together and create something beautiful in the community. Every year we take it a little bit farther. We look forward to seeing what our next planting season will bring.