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Zone 32 giving back with community garden

NLHS students gathered at the new Zone 32 community garden site Saturday to help get things ready, including (from left)Bethany Young, Ivory Dobbs, James Gibson, Lauren Johnson, Mary Hardin, Gracie Mullens, Rex Tuttle and Victoria Calixto. (eParis Extra photo by Jeff Parish)
NLHS students gathered at the new Zone 32 community garden site Saturday to help get things ready, including (from left)Bethany Young, Ivory Dobbs, James Gibson, Lauren Johnson, Mary Hardin, Gracie Mullens, Rex Tuttle and Victoria Calixto. (eParis Extra photo by Jeff Parish)

North Lamar High School’s Zone 32 program has kicked off its community garden project.

“We’re not just about giving hope to ourselves,” Wendy Bozarth, a Zone 32 sponsor, said at Saturday’s opening. “We’re giving back to the community. When we help others, we help ourselves.”

Zone 32 has adopted a two-acre plot at 1600 Clement Road through a city program started by Seeds of Hope. The lot is across from the city pool and is the site of the old animal shelter. Janet Partridge, a Zone 32 sponsor, said they hope to install a picnic area, as well as other possible additions.

“We are going to do a garden,” Partridge said. “We are open to suggestions.”

The site has water and electricity, although Bozarth said Zone 32 is looking for someone to help extend a line from the spigot at a corner of the lot. Sponsorships are available for other projects and needs, such as a fence for the garden area.

“We have tons of seeds Atwoods donated,” she said. “We’ve already sprouted seedlings. They’re in the windows of my lab.”

Zone 32 is a program that aims to provide a safe place for students to support and share among peer groups facilitated by professionals.

“I think it should be nationwide,” said Mary Hardin, a NLHS junior and Zone 32 president. “It’s not just another high school club.”

She said Zone 32 has helped her improve her own life, something she hopes to help others accomplish.

“I just want to be the one who helps others make the transition between the hard times of yesterday to the better times of today,” she said. “What you’re involved with today doesn’t have to be the outcome of your future.”

The community garden project started earlier this year as Seeds of Hope looked for ways to take empty lots and turn them into community gardens and green spaces, Kristy Foster, project manager for Seeds of Hope, said. Studies show these help decrease crime and increase community involvement, she said.

“There are spaces around Paris that are becoming very derelict,” she said. “We’re trying to take some of these places and make them something they can use.”

City guidelines require the adopting group to keep the site free of weeds and other undesirable vegetation, as well as litter and debris; keep the site safe and clean; and provide food grown on site to “qualified” individuals and groups free of charge. Food is not to be sold commercially without permission of the city manager.

Although it’s open to the community, the garden will primarily be a place for students.

“It is a place where they can come if they’re having a good day or a bad day,” Bozarth said. ‘It’s going to be a safe place.”

Organic gardener Marvin Smith serves as Zone 32’s consultant. After a quick inspection determined the site is mostly black land with a little bit of sand, Smith said it needs some work before it is ready for fruits and vegetables. He recommended bringing in wood chips and let them work into the soil by next fall, when things like garlic, onions, turnips and collards could be planted.

“If you put down wood chips, make sure you realize you will not plant a garden this season,” he said.
He also recommended working in smaller beds rather than a large single garden.

“People come out and see a big area, and they make a big area,” he said. “Big mistake.”

John O’Donnell cooked hotdogs and hamburgers for those helping Saturday.

For more information or to find out how you can help with the Zone 32 garden, call or text 903-491-8067. For more information on Seeds of Hope, call 903-401-7157.

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