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ACIPCO-Finley Community Garden Grows More, Gives More

Aug 2 , 2023
Community Involvement

The ACIPCO-Finley neighborhood surrounds ACIPCO and is considered a food desert, or a community in which 33% of the population lives more than one mile from a supermarket or grocery store. To help our neighbors gain access to fresh produce, the company began collaborating with Grace Klein Community and Grow More, Give More in 2021.

Through Grow More, Give More, an initiative of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and the Jefferson County Master Gardeners Association Inc., ACIPCO works with volunteers to build garden boxes and plant a variety of fruits and vegetables under the guidance of skilled gardeners. In addition to the ACIPCO-Finley Community Garden, community gardens were planted in Hooper City and North Birmingham this year.

ACIPCO-Finley Neighborhood Association President Catherine Evans smiles with garden volunteer Judy Lankford.

“Gardening is an opportunity to bring about a positive change in your life,” said Catherine Evans, president of the ACIPCO-Finley Neighborhood Association.

“This garden gives our seniors a sense of purpose, and it also fosters healthy eating in the community. We go door-to-door with boxes of vegetables and give them to neighbors who can’t drive to grocery stores.”

Evans helps coordinate the care of the garden with neighbors, master gardeners and ACIPCO to ensure the garden yields quality produce.

“We grow more in the garden each year and are always happy to meet new volunteers,” Evans said. “Teamwork is what helps us give more to those in need and what keeps this garden alive.”

For many the garden has also become a place for friends, family and fellowship. In fact, three generations of the Abernathy family volunteer every week.

As a child, Pam Abernathy’s mother, Bettie, always had a garden. Last year, Bettie told Pam, “We need to start gardening again.” Since then, Bettie, who just turned 80, Pam and her sons Dylan and Dallas visit the garden weekly to do their part for the community.

Pam Abernathy and herson Dylan pose by the sunflowers.

“Working in the garden has encouraged my family to eat better and volunteering has allowed us to meet many new people,”
Pam said.

Like many of the neighbors, Pam shares her recipes with other volunteers. Making use of ingredients grown in the garden, she puts her spin on classics such as bread-and-butter squash and lasagna.

“If you like bread-and-butter pickles, you’ll love my bread-and-butter squash,” Pam said. “When I jar the squash, I add bell peppers to give it a little kick. Squash is great as a side, but you can make a whole dish based around it too. I use the zucchini grown in the garden for zucchini lasagna and zucchini bread. Recipes like these make you want to reach for healthy snacks.”

Since 2021, Alabama Master Gardener Bunny Fite, an affiliate of Grace Klein Community, has worked with ACIPCO and ACIPCO-Finley neighbors to replant the garden. Fite teaches volunteers how to properly care for the variety of pollinators, vegetables and herbs and how to troubleshoot when problems arise.

Garden volunteers gather for a group photo.

“Tomatoes are a perfect example of finicky plants,” Fite explained. “If you’ve ever had the pleasure of successfully growing green tomatoes, you know it takes forever for them to mature and become edible. Gardening can grow one’s patience and resilience, and it teaches you to respect what nature can provide when you take care of it.”

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