The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 12, 2013

New group encouraging sustainable gardening

By Bridget Nash Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Your Christmas tree may still be up and lit and there is the promise of chill-to-the-bone weather on the way, so the last thing you’re probably thinking about is gardening.

But that doesn’t mean now isn’t the time to think about it. Time flies, and in the blink of an eye, it will be time to drag out spades and seeds.

Whether you are a gardening enthusiast, want to learn how to start a garden or are curious about sustainable living, there is a new group in Enid that can help answer all your questions.

Friends of Sustainable Gardening and Agriculture is a group that has been meeting for only three months, but has big plans for the future.

“Our goal is to teach people to be sustainable in their own backyard,” said Charity Mercer, who started the group along with Kate Morrison, who began as the director of the Hope Outreach Faith Farm in 2006, but recently resigned to pursue other interests.

“I think over the past six years, working at the Faith Farm and gardening and researching a lot of the information that is coming out on gardening ... I have become passionate that people understand better ways of gardening that are earth-friendly,” Morrison said. “I think we are stewards of the earth.”

The group meets once a month and is working on growing its membership and curriculum.

“We are trying to make a network,” Mercer said.

Mercer said as the network of people involved in the group grows, the amount of resources and knowledge also will grow.

One of the biggest goals of sustainable living is growing healthy and natural food.

“We like for people to become more independent in their food choices,” Mercer said.

With a successful backyard garden, families can avoid the grocery store prices on produce, the chemicals on grocery produce and the loss of nutrients from produce that is shipped many miles.

“(Grocery store produce) is shipped a typical average of 1,500 miles,” Mercer said.

It is not only the shipping process that causes the produce to lost nutritional value.

“(Grocery store produce has) 85 percent less nutritional value, because the soil it’s grown in is so depleted of what makes it healthy,” Morrison said.

Growing vegetables is not the only topic of learning and discussion at the meetings of Friends of Sustainable Gardening and Agriculture. Other topics have included the earth’s other natural resources, such as natural medicinal and health benefits; keeping soil healthy; conservative and efficient water usage; the importance and uses of herbs; and they hope to soon discuss beekeeping.

“Bees are a very important aspect of gardening,” said Mercer.

Beekeeping is increasing in popularity due to a decrease in the bee population, which may be due to pesticides, Mercer said.

“We just cover a full circle of sustainable living,” Mercer said.

Another goal of the group is to help people save money when it comes to food.

“The things a lot of people can’t afford are the fresh fruit and vegetables,” Morrison said. “We’re seeing the cost in the grocery stores just escalate.

“We’re not trying to take away the necessity of the local grocery store. We all need that.”

In addition to saving grocery budget money, there are other benefits to starting a home garden.

“It gets the family involved,” Morrison said. “It gets the children involved, and they know where the food is coming from.”

Morrison said children are more likely to eat fresh fruits and vegetables if they take part in growing them, and gardening also gets the youth out in the fresh air, exercising and “reconnected with the earth.”

The first four months of the group is sponsored by Enid’s Hope Outreach, and the members will be devising a membership structure as well as looking for a permanent place to hold meetings.

Mercer said the group belongs entirely to its members, and the members will decide the structure of the group as well as the topics covered in the meetings.

“We’d really like to put the group in power over the meetings,” Mercer said.

“This group is for people to educate themselves, or for people that are interested in taking little steps in being more self-sufficient.”

Anyone is invited to attend the monthly meetings, which are held at 7 p.m. the first Monday of every month.

The next meeting will be Feb. 4 at Hope Outreach Community Care Day Center, 815 W. Maine.

Anyone seeking more information about the group can call (580) 402-0636.