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June 4, 2009

A Community Grows in Laurinburg
Sam Thompson loves Laurinburg, NC and wants to spread the love. This town of nearly 16,000 residents has a wealth of history as well as an active community of soccer players, cyclists, bird watchers, tennis and basketball players, model airplane flying clubs and community gardeners. Noticing all that was going on, Active Laurinburg was born. Their goal is to "promote our active lifestyle as a "must see" destination that will attract visitors from around the country.". Currently there are over 100 people involved and 25 (all volunteer) coordinators of the various projects. Their goal is to have more than 2,500 people involved throughout the community.

One of the newest projects of Active Laurinburg is the Community Garden. Sam and a team of organizers started the garden last year when a few acres of land adjacent to the Laurinburg Presbyterian Church were donated to the church. The church partnered with Active Laurinburg to let them use the land for the garden. The goal of the organizers was to stimulate the minds and bodies of community residents while building community. In the first year, 42 families rented plots to cultivate. They are hoping for 100 families this year.

One of the gardens most notable and enthusiastic farmers is NC Senator, William Purcell. The Senator says he has plenty of land at his home that they could use for a vegetable garden but his wife prefers to go to the community garden and be social. Last year they grew pole beans, eggplants, beets, peppers, tomatoes and as he put it, "we had squash coming out of our ears". Part of the plot rental contract is the promise to donate 10% of each year's crop to a charity. Senator Purcell and his wife gave theirs to the local domestic violence shelter. Other recipient charities include the local food bank as well as Church and Community Services.

Sam coordinates the tilling, irrigation systems and tools for the garden. Mulch is donated by the city by utilizing the tree limbs and other organic materials that are already being chopped up as part of regular care and maintenance. Organic gardening is highly encouraged. Funding for the garden comes from the plot rental fees, $40 for a full plot (15'x 40') and $20 for a half plot (15'x 20') and money raised from the sale of the honey made by the garden's own bee hives.

The garden not only provides an abundance of nutritious fruits and vegetables to the residents of Laurinburg, but it also keeps them physically active and builds a stronger community through the relationships they are cultivating in the fields. People with all levels of gardening skills participate. Experts share their knowledge and tips as novices experiment and learn. Senator Purcell said it best, "It isn't a complex thing to do. Just plant your garden and the people will show up."

The Laurinburg Community Garden continues to grow. Sam stated that his next step for building the garden is to get the local physicians on board with the project. "They need to be writing prescriptions to work in the garden. That would solve a whole host of health problems."

Garden Plot Map

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