Community gardens a budding trend in Saline County

With diet-related health issues on the rise, many people are looking for ways to be healthier these days. One way to do this while also bringing the community together is through community gardens.
Some say interest in gardening is arising because of concern about the source of foods.
"If you eat a grape in December, it's got to come all the way from Chile," said Bruce Shraeder of Zion Lutheran Church in Avilla.
The Avilla/Zion Community Garden started a garden last spring six miles outside the Salem community. Shraeder is propelling the effort in Avilla and throughout Saline County. He gives workshops to groups interested in starting a community garden.
Garden use is not limited to church members or those who live in Avilla. Members of the surrounding communities are participating. There are currently 60 beds in the garden and most have been planted with fall and winter vegetables like broccoli and spinach.
The church leases 4'-by-12-foot raised beds for free and provides the seeds. Shraeder taught the participants what they could plant. A lot of people participating had not had gardens previously. They practice organic principals as well.
Shraeder is building hoop houses, which are similar to greenhouses.
Shraeder estimates 80 percent of participants want to do it again next year. Several people have already signed up for spring beds.
The only rule is participants must keep the area around their beds clean.
Sardis United Methodist Church is also starting a garden. The church was looking for a way to build relationships in the community, said Elizabeth Kooiman, missions committee chair.
"God planted a seed," Kooiman said.
Those interested may contact the church or Kooiman at 501-993-4960.
The Boys & Girls Club of Saline County is also starting a garden using money from a 21st Century Community Learning Grant.