BOONE COUNTY — Organizers believe a new community garden and Boone County Farmer’s Market can provide many positive returns for those across the county who want to participate.
Community volunteer Forest Dolin, who has pioneered many projects in recent years, has applied for multiple grants for the market project and was recently declined for one. He said that won’t discourage his efforts or prevent the initiative from seeing the light of day.
The process is similar to planting seeds and waiting to see what takes root.
“That is how this works; you have to see what is out there and it is just part of the process,” he said. “I feel like I’ve put together another really good grant application. We’ll just wait and see how it goes. I will get the funding together, I’m not concerned. I’ll keep trying.”
Dolin said the idea for the market came about through community groups working together on various projects. The grand opening for the market — weather permitting — was set for July 5 at the “Rev up! Pavilion” on Main Street in downtown Madison.
“We worked with the West Virginia Small Business Development Hub last year and they provided a community coach for us and we did the e-communities grant and we did four different events surrounding small businesses and as we got toward the end of that grant, we were collectively thinking about what we could do next,” he said. “We had someone come in from Princeton and they talked about how they had revitalized Mercer Street in downtown, specifically. Josh Barker spoke to some people with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture for us and they sent a couple of people over to talk about Farmer’s Markets and that really sparked my interest in it and how we could develop that idea.”
Dolin said he has also looked to other areas that have developed successful markets like the ones in Williamson and St. Albans to see what has worked or not worked in their models.
“This is a small-investment project, considering the kind of turnaround it can provide for communities like ours, and I think it could help our county as a whole if we all work together,” he said. “I’ve been focused on this for quite a while. I live in an apartment, so I don’t have anywhere that I could grow a garden in.”
Initially, Dolin inquired with the City of Madison about the old Madison Pool and whether a portion of that plot could be used for a garden. Concerns regarding another project on the pool property in the spring of 2021 prevented the city from allowing the use of that space but, the city offered another solution to Dolin. Volunteers are now preparing for what they hope will be an inaugural 2021 harvest.
“On the pool road, an old building where Judy’s Tax Service and an apartment building once was has since been torn down and the city has had to take care of it, and they agreed to let us use that lot,” he said. “We are still working out what level of usage we can have and we will definitely be sure not to impose on the neighbors. There are details to be worked out.”
Dolin said the lot is approximately 200 feet deep and about 100 feet wide. There are concrete slabs in some areas on the space, but Dolin said it would be used for raised-bed growing, so the concrete can be utilized as well.
“My primary concern revolves around keeping animals out of it and in my grant application, I included a request for funding to install some animal fencing,” he said. “The dirt on the back half is very rich, but on the front half is going to need some work and I’ve done some composting already. Doing all raised-bed planting is just not cost effective.”
During Madison City Council meetings, the council and Mayor Buddy Hudson have shown support for the projects through open session communications with Dolin.
A grant application for $3,000 is what Dolin believes will get the project off of the ground and into the soil. The grant would help provide agricultural water barrels to the site, which lacks a clean water source. Garden tools are also part of the grant request for the volunteer-driven project.
Once the land is ready to be cultivated, Dolin will encourage individuals and organizations to apply for a garden plot on the site.
“It will be their responsibility to take care of their area and whatever comes out of it is theirs to keep, and I’m not keeping anything. They can sell it at the Farmer’s Market or donate it to be sold there — whatever they want to do with it.”
Dolin believes there are multiple benefits to the initiative.
“It provides a whole list of opportunities between providing some food for people who need it and there is a therapeutic aspect of it and it is a quick turnaround for progress and it isn’t a high-risk thing,” he said. “I think people will get out of it what they put into it. People need help from time to time and this is more than giving them something — it is offering them an opportunity. Not every opportunity in our communities are the same for everyone.”
Dolin has been doing some composting work off-site on a piece of land on Wahanda Lane off of Route 85, where he has made public requests for bagged grass clippings and leaves that can be dropped off at the site.
For more information on this and the Community Garden and Farmer’s Market projects, reach Dolin on Facebook via Messenger or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.