Community garden provides fresh produce to Pleasant Hill residents

In the heart of Macon’s historic Pleasant Hill neighborhood, a community garden is thriving.

Since it began nine years ago, the garden has provided more than 3,000 pounds of vegetables free of charge to senior citizens and the disabled living in the neighborhood.

It boasts a variety of plants, including collards, cabbages, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, okra, string beans, watermelons, mustard greens, turnip greens, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, carrots and assorted herbs.

The garden’s founder, Naomi Johnson, said the garden is intended to bring the neighborhood together and to encourage healthy eating habits.

Johnson has lived in Pleasant Hill for more than 70 years, and she remembers a time when the neighborhood was “self-sustaining,” boasting several schools, a hospital, locally owned stores and churches of every denomination.

She cares deeply about the community and said has hated to see it struggling for the past couple of decades.

Johnson said Pleasant Hill was a target area for the government-funded “Weed and Seed” program in the early 1990s. The program’s aim was to weed out drug use and violence through social and economic revitalization, according to its website.

But Johnson had her own ideas of how to improve the community she grew up in.

“My idea of seeding in good stuff was a community garden, because after all, everything started in a garden,” she said.

The garden is open to anyone in the neighborhood, and many people, like Annie Norris, tend their own plots.

Norris has been with the garden for a little more than three years. Tuesday morning, she was focusing specifically on her watermelons.

The garden also gets a hand from hundreds of young volunteers each year.

Tuesday morning, teenagers from across the Southeast were pulling weeds and planting seeds as a part of Passport, a youth summer camp.

Several Mercer University professors also send freshmen to the garden to volunteer.

Johnson said she loves working with the young people who come to help in the garden.

“I love to see their faces light up when they’re learning something new,” she said.

The garden operates entirely on donations and help from the community.

Rabbi Larry Schlesinger, a Macon city councilman, has donated to the garden and said he supports Pleasant Hill’s efforts.

Schlesinger said he is in favor of any effort to improve the quality of life in the Pleasant Hill neighborhood.

“It really shows what can be done when people come together and work together towards a common goal,” he said.

The Pleasant Hill community garden is one of several community gardens that have sprouted up around Macon in recent years.

The Mulberry Street United Methodist Church community garden provides vegetables to Macon Outreach, which serves nearly 1,000 hot meals each week.

This garden is situated on Walnut Street behind the old Cheerio package store. Those who benefit from the garden’s produce help tend it.

Similarly, the Beall’s Hill Community Garden at Centenary offers its produce to those who help care for the garden.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Liz Bibb, call 744-4425.