Community garden taking root near campus

Plans are in the works for a community garden in Cullowhee near the Western Carolina University rear entrance off Old Cullowhee Road.

Adam Bigelow, a 2011 graduate of WCU with a degree in environmental science, will manage the garden, approximately 2.5 acres owned by Jackson County at the intersection of Monteith Gap Road and South Painter Road in Old Cullowhee. The spot is designated as a trailhead for the future Jackson County greenway.

One acre of the garden will be devoted to growing produce for the Community Table, a nonprofit organization addressing food insecurity in Jackson County, Bigelow said via email. The remaining area will be plots, free to adopt, with gardeners donating “half of all produce grown to benefit the Community Table,” he said.

The Cullowhee Community Garden project will provide tools, materials and assistance to community members so that they can grow produce organically. “The garden, and whole property, will be managed with natural and organic methods. No synthetic chemical fertilizers and no ‘-cides’ are allowed,” Bigelow said.

“We are hoping to have plots ready to adopt in time for a fall planting, which would mean mid- to late August, but that may be a bit ambitious,” Bigelow said. “But definitely they will be ready by the fall.”

Individuals who don’t have garden space or are new to gardening are great candidates for plots, Bigelow said. “It’s a lot of fun working in a community garden. You learn a lot, you teach a lot. It’s a good tradeoff,” said Bigelow, who lives in Sylva and maintains space at the community garden there. He looks forward to working with student groups from WCU and said the garden will figure into the environmental science program’s fall capstone class.

The Cullowhee garden project received $39,000 from an Eat Smart, Move More Community Grant from the state of North Carolina. These grants, funded by the Physical Activity and Nutrition Branch of the N.C. Division of Public Health, support N.C. health departments in their efforts to develop community-based interventions that encourage, promote and facilitate physical activity and healthy eating.

“Community gardens enhance nutrition and physical activity and promote the role of public health in improving quality of life. We are excited for the opportunity to provide a public health community garden here in Jackson County,” Jackson County Health Director Paula Carden said in a news release announcing the grant.

Volunteer opportunities will be available before plots are ready, and Bigelow encourages those interested or who simply want more information to contact him at 828-226-0398 or