Thank you to everyone who joined us for the

4th Annual Community Garden Forum!

Click here to view the 4th Annual Community Garden Forum’s presentation.

Stonewall Recreation Center receives certificate

Youth participants and advisor Ms. Judy from Stonewall Recreation Center accepted their community garden award from Dr. Jamie Zoellner of Virginia Tech. Stonewall was one of thirteen community garden sites recognized at the Fourth Annual Community Garden Forum for its efforts to create and maintain a vegetable garden that produced healthy vegetables for local consumption. The forum, held April 29, 2014, was hosted by the Dan River Partnership for a Healthy Community at Camp Grove Baptist Church. More than 50 community members, gardeners and agriculture professionals attended the forum to hear from keynote speaker Megan O’Rourke, Assistant Professor of Sustainable Food Systems at Virginia Tech.


Past forums:

3rd Annual Community Garden Forum

Community Gardens (CG) in the Dan River region (DRR) have been a concentration of the Dan River Partnership for a Healthy Community (DRPHC) health initiative since 2009 when first identified as a priority intervention to increase nutrition and health of DRR residents. The long term vision around CG involves understanding if CG efforts are a viable approach to improve and sustain changes in the nutrition, health, and weight status for residents  in the DRR. As such a series of research projects have been initiated since 2010  and each year the DRPHC hosts a  CG forum open to the public to provide updates to the community, enhance CG sites with knowledge, and provide opportunities for interested community members to participate and get involved.

Graduate Students Karissa Grier and Felicia Reese

On April 19th, the Dan River Partnership for a Healthy Community hosted their 3rd Annual Community Garden Forum in Danville, Virginia with more than 40 people in attendance. Representatives ranging from local residents who have participated in a community garden in the past and those interested in starting one, Virginia Cooperative Extension agents from the area, local Master Gardeners, academic partners, parks and recreation, and more! The two and a half hour event included a healthy, bountiful array of fresh vegetables and fruits for attendees to enjoy as they sat and participated in the forum.

The evening began with an introduction by Dr. Jamie Zoellner, academic partner and former vice chair of the DRPHC. After a warm welcome and a brief reminder of the DRPHC’s mission and vision, graduate students  Karissa Grier, Felicia Reese and Lorien MacAuley, all active research partners in the CG efforts, gave a presentation on CG progress including results from 2012 summer youth gardening program.

Highlights from the presentation included:

  • Conclusions from a youth and CG pilot study from summer 2012 title “Implementing and Evaluating a Community Garden and Nutrition Program for Low  Socioeconomic  Youth” which aimed to  determine if a 10-week gardening & nutrition   education intervention would increase youths’ willingness to try fruits and vegetables (FV) . Results demonstrated potential of collaborative efforts to influence willingness to try FV, confidence in eating and asking for FV, confidence in gardening, & nutritional & gardening knowledge in health disparate areas.
  • Result  from the 2012 garden logging project, in which 9 garden sites weighed produce from their gardens and logged how much of the produce was donated. Results included logging  2,470 Pounds of produceand donating 2,276 Pounds of produce to the community!  This was a great increase from 811 pounds logged in 2011!
  • A certificate presentation for 7 of the participating garden sites who attended the forum represented by their garden leaders. Certificates were presented by Bryan Price, Chair of the DRPHC.


Cardinal Village Garden

Moffett Baptist Garden

Camp Grove Garden











2012 Garden Sites included:

Cedar Terrace Garden

Cardinal Village

Community Blessing Center and Fellowship Hall of Milton Garden

Stoney Creek Elementary Outdoor Classroom

Stonewall Recreation Center Garden

Danville Farmer’s Market Community Garden

Moffett Street Church Garden

Camp Grove Neighborhood Garden

Franklin County Community Garden


The presentation concluded with an overview of the CG objectives for this coming season.  In summer 2013, Planting Seeds for Change, a CG initiative of the DRPHC, will aim to determine the effectiveness of an 8-week CG program among youth, as compared to control participants (who will receive a physical activity program) will begin. Theproject is funded by the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture & Life Sciences and the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth and hopes to continue and expand the CG program in the DRR. Community partner organizations include Virginia Cooperative Extension Family Nutrition Program, Virginia Cooperative Extension 4-H, and the local USDA Summer Feeding Program.  Future objectives also include observing the amount of produce harvested from ~11 CG in the DRR over the 2013 growing season. A welcoming invite was given at the conclusion of the presentation for any interested CG sites to participate in the 2013 produce logging. Interested gardens may contact Lorien MacAuley.

View the presentation here  to learn more about previous community garden work in the DRR and 2013 objectives.


Mark Powell

The evening continued with guest speaker, Mark Powell. Mark is the founder of the Roanoke Community Garden Association (RCGA). The RCGA’s mission is to create and foster community gardens for the purpose of promoting and educating about organic gardening principles, food production, diet, nutrition, and food security in the Roanoke region. As a Roanoke native, Mark started RCGA in 2007 after he was living in an apartment and did not have enough space to grow his own food. He came up with the idea of a local community garden to help people just like him. At first, backyards were borrowed due to lack of land. In 2008, four backyard gardens were started, including one at Mark’s house. They grew so much food, that they were able to throw a festival and feed over 300 people!  Later, three permanent gardens were started with more to come! The gardens serve refugees and immigrants from around the world, as well as youth and the older population. View Mark’s Presentation here

The evening concluded with a panel discussion moderated by Karissa Grier. The topic of discussion was youth and community gardening. Panelists included (pictured from left to right below) Lorien MacAuley (Master Gardener and VT CG Assistant), Billy Holley (Master Gardener),  Michelle Robertson (Master Gardener), Mark Powell, (RCGA founder), and Tadashi Totten (Extension Agent 4-H Youth Development). Questions included: What are the necessary resources and tools to start a garden? What approaches are needed for different age groups? How can we keep young children engaged? What are some of the challenged you’ve faced when working with youth in gardening and how did you address those challenges?


Highlights of the discussion included—

  • It is important to understand children come from different educational and learning levels, which will require patience and creativity from the garden leader.
  • Due to lack of attention span, youth do not need lecturing when it comes to teaching them about gardening, but rather fun and engaging activities which should be appropriate for their age.
  •  It is important to reframe your expectations when working with youth—it is ok if the garden is not as productive or perfect as you expected. Children will make mistakes, which is part of the learning process! As a result, it is important to have adequate adult help! It is recommended to have no more than 3-4 children per 1 adult supervisor.
  • When instructing youth with a gardening task, it is helpful to divide into groups and designate a specific task to a specific group.
  • It is also important that you give the children appropriate garden tools. They should not be working with full sized garden equipment.
  •  Gardening games help keep the process fun for the young participants, and do not make the lesson any more than 60-90 minutes.
  • It is a great idea to end the lesson with taste testing what comes out of the garden, as well as a quiz or questionnaire to assess what the children learned.
  •  Challenges of having a community garden with youth include selecting a garden location that is easily accessible and requires minimal transportation.
  • Children typically do not like getting overheated, so it is important to avoid the 10-4pm timeslot by trying to have early morning or early evening times.


The forum attendees were engaged and seemed to appreciate these experts and their experiences working with youth in gardens.



The DRPHC looks forward to the 2013 growing season and continuing with their CG initiatives. It would be wonderful to continue the annual CG Forum tradition! Until then, Happy Growing!

Interested in starting a CG and need info or resources? Check out Virginia Cooperative Extension and Danville Master Gardeners Association

To learn more about the DRPHC’s CG efforts, check out the CG page

Free seeds available from America the Beautiful Fund and Seed Savers Exchange  for eligible gardens/organizations (small shipping fee applies)




2nd Annual Community Garden Forum

View the Forum Agenda 

On February 23rd, the Dan River Partnership for a Healthy Community hosted the 2nd Annual Community Garden Forum in Danville, Virginia. Attendance was great with representatives ranging from local residents who have participated in a community garden in the past and those interested in starting one, several Virginia Cooperative Extension agents from the area, local Master Gardeners, academic partners, parks and recreation, and more! The two hour event included a healthy, bountiful array of fresh vegetables and fruits for attendees to enjoy as they sat and participated in the forum. The evening began with an introduction by Dr. Jamie Zoellner, academic partner and vice chair of the DRPHC. After a warm welcome and a brief reminder of the DRPHC’s mission and vision,  Master’s candidate, Ashley Zanko, who has had a huge contribution in Virginia Tech’s research on community gardens in the Dan River Region, gave a presentation on her research work. Ashley presented on the history of community gardens, the current community garden efforts in the Dan River Region, and the results of her mixed methods study Evaluating the Public Health Impact of Community Gardens in a Health Disparate Region. View Ashley’s presentation here to learn about Dan River Region gardens, their participants, produce harvested and produce distribution.



Stuart Sutphin, Virginia Cooperative Extension

The forum continued with a key note speaker, Stuart Sutphin of Virginia Coopertive Extension, as he delivered a talk on Soil Preparation for Gardens. Participants learned from Stuart the importance of soil testing and how testing your garden soil is not only the most important thing to do, but the most often factor overlooked. “Healthy garden soil is irreplaceable,” says Stuart. Soil testing will allow you to correct your soil to the ideal pH level and should be the first thing you do when starting a new garden. Soil sample boxes were available at the forum for participants to take home. If you would like more information on how to get your soil tested, please click here. Its recommended to do this at the start of the garden, and every two to three years following.




Panelist Discussion- Pictured are Russell Scruggs, Keri Ebert and Jacob McCann

The evening concluded with a panel discussion moderated by Lorien Macauley, a Virginia Tech student and Master Gardener. Panelists included Russell Scruggs (Moffett Memorial Baptist Church garden leader), Jacob McCann (City of Danville garden leader), Keri Ebert (Danville garden participant), Rev. Delaware Clark (Camp Grove Baptist Church garden leader) and Alfred Brown (Camp Grove garden participant). Panel discussions revolved around their community garden experiences, the resources they felt were neccessary for success, how they overcame their biggest challenges, and their vision for next year.





For more information on gardening or if you have a specific gardening question, contact Virginia Cooperative Extension or the Danville Master Gardener’s Association. For more information of the DRPHC’s community garden efforts, click here.


1st Annual Community Garden Forum

View Agenda

View Presentation