When a Girl Scout asked Dr. Jyoti Patel what she had done for the community, it motivated her to move forward with her idea for starting a Community Garden in Fountain Hills. In March of 2016, she pulled together a group of energetic residents with a shared vision and started planning.
Rita Applegate, the garden’s manager, got involved from the very beginning. Her goal was to create a “showstopper” garden on 1.8 acres of Town property under the nonprofit umbrella of the Fountain Hills Cultural & Civic Association.
“We created a Board of Directors of talented and passionate people,” Applegate said. “But I want to be clear that this project could not have happened without the cooperation of the Town, local businesses and nonprofit organizations, and hundreds of focused volunteers with a passion for the project.”
Applegate created a 4-phase plan that began with 67 beds for lease in early 2017. Next, they added another 62 beds, installed a greenhouse, and laid pavers for major walkways. A shed, 6 compost bins, and 8 trees followed.
Phase Four took the garden to a new level with a beautiful demonstration pavilion. This cooking space includes stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, and a shade structure. It is the location for the garden’s Healing Food Series. These classes bring in local chefs, restaurant owners, and nutritionists to show guests how to prepare delicious and healthy recipes with ingredients from their gardens.
Today, the garden has 123 leasable raised beds, 6 ADA beds, 5 food bank beds, and 2 dedicated children’s gardens. A bee enclosure was added with 2 regular beehives and 2 Flow hives. Without the bees, gardeners would have to self-pollinate everything they grow.
“We communicate regularly to our gardeners that this is THEIR garden. We want them to have pride in this space and to maintain their beds with that in mind.”
Applegate and fellow manager Joy Hubbard both love to mentor gardeners and to inspire other garden leaders across the Valley to share the secrets of her success, giving them a glimpse into how it can be done.
Last year, the Lower Verde Valley Hall of Fame recognized the Fountain Hills Community Garden with the Legacy Award. To become a garden member and gain access to the tips and tricks the garden members share, visit www.iLoveFountainHills.com.