The old adage “You Are What You Eat” may be a little trite, but actually is part of the motivation behind The Greenway Table.
In its fourth official year, The Greenway Table is a nonprofit garden that not only is a site for growing vegetables, but educating the community on the benefits of eating healthier foods.
“Basically, we believe what you eat has an impact on your lives,” said The Greenway Table Director Jennifer Norton. “Obviously, what you eat has an impact for health reasons, but also for community relations and family relationships, and it impacts the economy and the global environment.”
Case in point, The Greenway Table presently consists of some spring crops such as strawberries and lettuce, but to the naked eye, it may appear that much of the 1-acre garden is covered with tall grasses.
“In terms of the garden, we are busy running around planting the last of the spring crops and clearing the fields to plant the summer crops in April,” Norton explained.
“A lot of our cover crops have been cut down, and we leave some a little long and chop them down right before we plant … they help rejuvenate the soil.
“In 10 years, this land will be more fertile and less diseased and our plants will be even healthier because we have been working the soil for a long time with this cover crop,” she added. “You have to have healthy soil for seeds to grow well.”
While that knowledge helps produce a better crop at The Greenway Table, it is also knowledge that Norton and others associated with the project want to pass on to others.
“Our mission is to enhance and enable the community through the power of food, and how do we do that … we do that through the food we grow here at the garden, and we do it through education, which part of is held here on-site,” Norton said.
Promoting personal gardening is part of the education plan developed by The Greenway Table. Along with on-site education, other programs include: Toddlers at the Table, open houses, a Garden in the Classroom curriculum for local schools, public cooking classes and the Community Garden Initiative.
“As far as food coming out of The Greenway Table garden, we will have strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, onions, beets, carrots, eggplant, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and okra, and maybe some other vegetables,” Norton said. “But, there is much more that comes from The Greenway Table nonproduce-wise that is impossible to measure.”
She said the educational component increases interest in food sources and the connection of food to well-being.
“We hope that this fosters families growing food, and cooking food and eating it together, and fosters more kids thinking about what they are eating,” Norton said.
Projects such as the Toddlers at the Table for children ages 2 to 5, and trips to the garden by school-age children, have already increased knowledge of the importance of knowing where food comes from in these youngsters.
“Research shows, and it just makes sense, that a kid who watches a carrot grow is more likely going to want to eat that carrot,” Norton said.
Sales of vegetables by The Greenway Table, whether to area restaurants and grocers, at the local farmers’ markets, or through the Community Supported Agriculture program, help maintain the garden. The CSA program is where an individual or family pays to receive a box of seasonal vegetables each week for 30 weeks. This program begins in May, and there are just a few slots still open in the program.
The Greenway Table also receives a grant from the United Way of Bradley County. This is the third year the program has received this type of grant.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today without this endowment,” Norton said.
Norton is also involved in helping develop several community gardens in the area.
Patrick Long, vice president of Community Impact for United Way of Bradley County, also sees the benefits of The Greenway Table in more than just producing food.
“The majority of the fresh fruits and vegetables consumed in American cities are grown thousands of miles away,” he said. “According to US Department of Agriculture, the average food on our plates travels more than 1,500 miles. It takes a considerable amount of fuel, time, emissions, packaging, and preserving to get fruits and vegetables to us.
Urban agriculture programs like the Greenway Table turn that paradigm on its head. “By reducing the environmental impact of shipping food long distances, and the associated costs, the Greenway Table provides city residents with an affordable source of nutritious food,” Long noted. “In addition, growing food with your neighbors is a great way to foster community, educate kids and adults alike, teach city residents new skills, and revitalize and beautify the neighborhoods we live in.”
Norton pointed to the quote from well-known author Robert Louis Stevenson featured in The Greenway Table brochure, which reads: “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.
“We hope that while planting seeds that will grow into healthy, tasty and nutritious vegetables, we are also planting the seeds in our young people that what you eat is very important,” she said. “Healthy food choices lead to healthy lives.”
Norton pointed out the next open house at The Greenway Table, which is located at the intersection of 20th Street N.E. and Parker Street, will be Monday, from 5 to 8 p.m. These open houses are held each Monday through October.
While parking is literally nonexistent at The Greenway Table, it is available nearby.
On Saturday, April 28, The Greenway Table and LuAnn Carey will hold an Introduction to Gardening class at the YMCA Healthy Kids Day at the Cleveland Family YMCA. This program begins at noon and will last two hours.
Introduction to Herbs with Elise Basescu will be on Saturday, May 19, from noon to 2 p.m. at The Greenway Table.
The next Toddlers at the Table will be on Monday, April 23, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at The Greenway Table. Toddlers at the Table will also be held on June 25, at the same time and site.
For more information on these programs, or on The Greenway Table, call 423-790-0660, or visit www.thegreenwaytable.org. You can also access The Greenway Table’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thegreenwaytable.