Terrific news for the Leicester Library! Plans are in place for groundbreaking and first planting in spring 2020 for the Leicester Community Garden.

The Leicester Community Garden, organized by the Garden Committee of the Friends of Leicester Library, will be the first of its kind in Buncombe County: a free, public- access community garden on library property.

The Leicester Library not only offers citizens access to information, but it also fosters community building through programming and connection. The garden will be a multifunctional, beautiful resource to further enhance the library’s engagement and commitment to the community.

The entire garden vision is a multiphase project to develop an open-access food forest, located at the beautiful hill-top Leicester Library property. Phase One is focused on the installation of a 30’ x 36’ enclosed annual garden, where volunteers will grow and give food to the community as they share knowledge and build relationships.

The Garden Committee aims to encourage community building, lifelong learning, and environmental stewardship. As the branch manager of the Leicester Library, I’ve been helping align the garden volunteers’ vision with County initiatives, and I’m thrilled with the garden’s budding impact.

The Garden Committee gets stronger with each meeting, as community members meet one another and share their expertise. While the Garden Committee members are working together on fundraising strategies and planning for Phase One implementation, I’m thinking about how the process will work with the library’s programming goals.
One of my duties as branch manager is to develop and implement free programs for the public, and I strive to offer a wide variety of activities to meet the community’s needs. Since joining the Leicester Library team in May 2019, I’ve offered a range of programs each month. I facilitate two book clubs (a more traditional afternoon book group, where we read and discuss contemporary titles in an open atmosphere; and a social justice book club, where we discuss titles having to do with specific social justice issues), as well as a creative writing group for writing children’s books. The Friends of Leicester Library provide financial sponsorship to allow the Leicester Library to offer even more exciting events, including live music and storytelling performances, month-long yoga series, and multi-generational crafting classes.

The community garden will provide additional opportunities for programming and engagement, and I’m looking forward to exploring the possibilities.
Garden workdays will serve two functions: volunteers will accomplish installation, planting, and harvesting goals while collaborating to provide educational programming for the community. For example, we’ve already started a leaf compost pile, using leaves from other County properties, to build soil and mulch for the garden. Once it’s sufficiently decomposed, we might offer a composting program, in which participants would help enrich the garden while learning a skill to sustainably enhance their own home gardens.

Completion of Phase One will provide multiple opportunities for new programming: our children’s librarian might offer special outdoor story times; or we could invite local musicians for an informal jam session in our growing garden! Citizens who are curious about gardening will be able to attend garden events, learn new skills, and meet new people.

I’m also incredibly happy about the garden’s giving potential, as it reflects another purpose of the library: its ability to strengthen and fortify the community. A large portion of the produce grown at the community garden will be shared with the Leicester community, possibly at regular food distribution events. The giving garden, from the community and for the community, will aide in addressing food insecurity and the importance of healthy living in Western NC.

My hope is that the garden will assist the library in deepening its bond with and service to the community, and that we will create a cycle of engagement together. This engagement, through programs, skill-sharing, and relationship building, will cultivate an educated and capable community, aligned with the County’s mission to promote a healthy, safe, well-educated, and thriving community with a sustainable quality of life.

When garden volunteers approached me about the possibility of starting a community garden at the library, I was immediately interested and committed to working with them to bring this dream to fruition. I get more excited about this project with each meeting and milestone, and at this stage, I’m reminded of Julie Fogliano’s beautiful picture book, And Then It’s Spring, which begins:

“First you have brown, all around you have brown
then there are seeds
and a wish for rain,
and then it rains
and it is still brown,
but a hopeful, very possible sort of brown…”

It’s exactly how I feel about the garden right now: it’s a hopeful, very possible sort of brown. I can’t wait!