Salem Fresh Ideas Garden sets big goals for 2017

SALEM (WSLS10)-- A community garden in Salem is already off to a strong start. The Salem Fresh Ideas Garden is run by volunteers in the community and was created to give back to the community as well.

This year volunteers are hoping to grow more than 3,500 pounds of produce-- all food that will go back to the Salem-Roanoke County Food Bank.

It's a garden that's had a lot of success from the beginning. In 2015, the first growing season for the garden, nearly 1,790 pounds of produce were harvested. Last year, the garden produced nearly 2,989 pounds of produce, thanks to the honey bees that were brought in to the City of Salem. Those bees helped to pollinate the vegetables.

Salem's resident horticulturist, Laura Reilly, says the types of vegetables grown in the garden have changed a lot over the past two years as well. The focus has shifted to items that tend to be more popular with food pantry clients.

"To see the faces of people who are so excited to get fresh tomatoes or squash, cucumbers, zucchini and those kinds of things that we all take for granted," says Reilly. "It's not that big of a deal for us to eat fresh, but for other people who don't have access to it, it is so impacting to see the looks on their faces that it's free and take all you want."

The garden is run solely by volunteers, some of which have been hard at work since early this year starting the seedlings that will soon be planted in the plot.

Land where the garden is built was donated by the Salem Presbyterian Church. In that first year, the garden became a partnership between the church and City of Salem-- as volunteers cleared the old bricks, trash and roots from the land.

From the community work days to get everything planted, the weekly harvest sessions and the daily check-ins, this is a garden that brings volunteers from all walks of life.

"People walk down the street with their dogs and kids and see us, come over over to talk and decide to jump in and help us out," says Tom Bird, a volunteer with the garden. "It's really neat to watch the little kids learning about planting and watching things grow."

The first work day for the garden will take place April 22 and 9:30 a.m. For more information and to get involved, click here.