WRITTEN BY: SAMANTHA SHOVER | PILLAR OF GROUNDED | ISSUE 08
A remarkable movement known as Jones Gardens has taken root in Staunton, VA, transforming vacant land into a flourishing community garden. Led by two visionary sisters, Naomi and Sarah Jones, this extraordinary initiative has become a catalyst for community engagement and empowerment. Through my conversation with these inspiring women, I gained a deeper understanding of their journey and the profound impact Jones Gardens has had on the community so far. Now, as they expand their garden, more and more lives are changing as they learn about this community outreach.
Naomi and Sarah Jones shared a deep passion for gardening and a desire to make a positive change in their town. Naomi recalls, “Back in 2020, during the pandemic, Naomi brought up the idea of starting a community garden. The concept intrigued me as it differed from any other community garden I had ever seen. We envisioned a space where people could contribute, help out, and freely take home fresh produce to feed their families.”
Their vision went beyond mere gardening. They aimed to create a program where individuals could trade in compost or organic waste for the nourishing fruits of their labor. The community’s engagement and environmental contributions became integral to the garden’s ethos. Naomi explains, “We wanted the community to be actively involved, not just renting plots but participating in a collective effort to contribute to the community and the environment. Addressing food insecurity was a pressing issue, and we wanted to provide affordable produce.”
Driven by their shared commitment, Sarah joined Naomi in bringing their dream to life. Sarah reflects on her role, saying, “In the beginning, I focused on community engagement and spreading the word about Jones Gardens. We organized Zoom calls, sent out press releases, and coordinated volunteers. I also had a passion for design aesthetics, leveraging my artistic background to create a visually appealing garden layout.”
The support of their family was instrumental in the realization of Jones Gardens. Naomi explains, “Our parents were the inspiration behind the garden. We grew up with a vegetable garden in our backyard, instilling in us a love for growing our food. They were wholeheartedly supportive of our vision. Our brother, with his carpentry skills, even helped build the garden shelter.”
Jones Gardens quickly gained momentum, with the community embracing the project. However, not all encounters were met with enthusiasm. Naomi recounts a neighbor’s initial resistance, saying, “Before breaking ground, we faced opposition from a neighbor who expressed concerns about an overgrown garden. But as the garden blossomed, opinions changed. New neighbors, including a young family, now appreciate having a local farmers market on their doorstep. Children visit the garden, filling their baskets with fresh vegetables, experiencing the joys of nature and community.”
“I don’t have any type of real skill. I just plant the seed, and God does the rest.”-Naomi Jones
The impact of Jones Gardens extends far beyond the physical space. Naomi shares touching stories of individuals finding solace and healing within the garden’s embrace. “We’ve had neighbors confide in us about the profound impact the garden has had on their lives. One lady shared how coming to the garden during difficult times brought her solace and a sense of peace. Another family said that their little girl had recently gone through a lot of trauma and witnessed a really bad altercation with her mom and her mom’s partner where he almost killed her and she hasn’t been normal ever since. She always cries and stays in her room but they say that she but she loves coming to the garden. She doesn’t like talking to people but she comes to the garden and talks to us. The fact that she just turns into a different child when she’s at the garden really makes us feel like we are making a difference.”
As Jones Gardens continues to flourish, the community has rallied behind this transformative initiative. Naomi and Sarah express their gratitude for the overwhelming support they have received. They credit the garden’s success to the collective effort of the Jones family, friends, and community members. Sarah’s communication expertise and their brother’s carpentry skills have played crucial roles in the project’s development. In conclusion, Jones Gardens stands as a testament to the power of community, compassion, and the transformative potential of gardening. Naomi and Sarah Jones have cultivated not only a thriving garden but also a vibrant community space where lives are enriched, healing is found, and a shared vision of a sustainable and nourished future becomes a reality.
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