Community Garden provides space, food, friendships

Published 6:00 am Sunday, March 25, 2018

When Elizabeth O’Donnell and her family moved back to Oxford in August 2016, the house she moved into has many large trees, which provides beauty and shade, but didn’t allow much room for her to create a garden.

She found the plot she needed at the Oxford Community Garden in the spring of 2017 where she spends many an afternoon with her 3-year-old daughter Lily, planting cucumbers, carrots, melons, sunflowers, herbs and more.

“I love watching a seed sprout and then grow to its potential,” she said. “We eat what we grow and share with friends too.”

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Lily enjoys gardening too — at least playing in the dirt.

“She takes off her shoes and picks her tools out to dig in the dirt with,” O’Donnell said. “She likes to be able to do something that allows her to work alongside me and get dirty.”

Susie Adams, an Oxford resident who works for the U.S. Forest Service as a crayfish biologist, founded the Oxford Community Garden Association in April 2009. She worked with city leaders and led the effort to gain the site for the garden, off Bramlett Boulevard next to the Community Pavilion.

The garden has 50 plots, made up of three different sizes available to rent — 4 x 8, 10 x 16 and 16 x 16. To rent a plot, one must be a member of the association for an annual cost of $10. Prices for plots range from $20 a year to $35 a year.

Plot holders are required to maintain their plot year-round, either by actively gardening or by mulching during the winter months, maintain the pathways surrounding their plot and assist in maintaining the common spaces in the garden by attending at least three garden work days per season.

The mission of the association is to “enhance the well-being and beauty of the community by assisting people in growing fresh produce, providing locally-grown food to people in need, increasing social interaction in the community and creating an educational garden in an attractive setting.”

“We are providing people a place to garden,” said Tiffany Bensen, volunteer garden manager. “Research shows that spending time outside has all kinds of health benefits, not to mention that if you grow your own food, it’s satisfying to know where it comes from.”

The garden has multiple plots dedicated to growing vegetable for donation to the Oxford Pantry.

“We call this ‘community harvest,’ which is an effort led in recent years by Beckett and Mary Hartwell Howorth, with assistance from some committed volunteers from the garden and the community,” Bensen said. “We’ve donated 100 pounds of vegetable to the Pantry over the last eight years.”

The Community Garden also provides educational opportunities with workshops and seminars focused on gardening.

Frankie Wilson has been gardening at the Community Garden since it began in 2009. She started out sharing a plot with a friend until she took it over when her friend moved. She’s grown a variety of vegetables, flowers and herbs over the years.

Before joining the Community Garden, Winn said she wasn’t much of a gardener.

“I had messed around with planting stuff in pots, but never in the ground,” she said. “I was initially attracted to the community garden because my backyard is shady and prone to deer and squirrels. I have stayed because of the friendships and the community of like-minded folks who enjoy the challenge of growing their own food.”

Now that she has two small children she’s raising, Wilson rents a smaller plot than when she first started at the garden; however, she picked up two children’s plots for her kids to learn the joys of gardening.

“They are excited about planting seeds and tending to their own little plot,” she said of her children, 4 and 5 years old. “They absolutely love blueberry season in the garden. We have created a lot of sweet memories and friendships here in the garden.”

Lisa Martin shares a small plot with another gardener.

“I have always found having my hands in the dirt to be very soothing and therapeutic,” she said. “I like knowing where my food comes from and what has been done to it. The wealth of knowledge that can be gained from being around the other gardeners is another of primary reasons I joined.”

There are still plots available for people to rent. For more information, visit or send an email to