by Laura Johnson
The idea behind the gardens at the Hospitality House, Sam Brown told me at a picnic table in their upper gardens, is community and connection. His charge as garden coordinator is to connect Hospitality House with the greater Boone community, using the gardens as the link. “It’s about relationships,” Sam explained. When people from the community come to volunteer, he hopes that relationships will be forged with the residents, allowing them to reconnect with the community and foster community involvement. “That’s one of the biggest things we’re working on here in the garden,” he said.
But not only that; Sam is dedicated to educating people about real, nourishing food. “Showing them that this food is good, it’s from here, it’s free, and hopefully when they leave Hospitality House they can go and have their own garden and enjoy it,” he explained. “I hope some of the residents take away that gardening or farming is a serious lifestyle for some of the community here in Boone, and they understand that and maybe take something away from that that’s bigger than themselves.”
"This garden is supported by many hands, and I think that's the big point."
Sam sees gardening and farming as a part of a healthy lifestyle, an art form and a kind of therapy. “It’s a lost art really,” he said. “I want to show people that through this lost art you can find a lot of value.” Sam believes that by integrating gardening back into people’s lives, some people may find a joy that they would otherwise never have known. “We facilitate that,” he said, “and if we don’t, then there’s a chance that person who would be into farming or gardening would never have that as a part of their life. So it can bring joy and energy back into somebody’s life. That’s my job, what I’m trying to do for all the residents here.”
He’s doing a fantastic job so far. Since its inception about 2 ½ years ago, the garden program has evolved into an upper garden area with donated, wheelchair-accessible raised beds and a lower garden with two hoop houses, 10 raised beds, fruit trees and composting. All kinds of produce are grown organically and with care by residents, staff and community volunteers. Anyone is welcome to help out, and many of the residents are excited about it. Those who help out can get tokens to buy meals at F.A.R.M. Café or produce at the Watauga Farmers’ Market. The goal for this year is to use a grant to purchase a large walk-in cooler to store the food. “People that need food can come in and make a food box and have fresh food whenever they need it,” Sam said. The leftovers will go to the Hospitality House kitchen. “So all the residents can really see what they’ve grown, and they can eat it and see what it tastes like. So it’s definitely full circle.”
While not your “traditional” farm, Sam is excited that Hospitality House is highlighted in the High Country Farm Tour. “I think it’s important for people to come to a small space and see that if you have a 12x12 space you can make enough food for a small family,” he said. “I think it’s cool when people come and are like wow, this community of residents and people in Boone just want to help out, they’re supporting this and caring about this…This garden is supported by many hands, and I think that’s the big point.”
For more information about the Hospitality House: http://www.hospitalityhouseofboone.org/