Community Garden to open in Gates County

Published 4:55 pm Tuesday, May 9, 2023

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By Cynthia Wagoner –

Gates County Extension

Master Gardener

Coming soon to Gates County is a community garden to be located at the Community Center next to the high school. Shayla Hayes, GP4H Coordinator and coordinator of the project, recently met with me to answer a few questions regarding this project. Below are the questions, as well as her answers:

Who is involved in the leadership of the garden, and who will be the participants?

The community garden project was initiated by Gates Partners for Health, a network of community-based organizations, agencies, and individuals who are dedicated to improving the health and quality of life of those living, working, and playing in Gates County. The efforts of Gates Partners for Health are coordinated through Albemarle Regional Health Services and are guided by priority areas that are selected based on the latest Community Health Needs Assessment data.

Our community garden initiative is being supported through ECU Health Roanoke-Chowan Hospital’s Community Benefits Grant program. We received funding to support the development of a new community garden in Gates County as well as to provide support to any already existing community garden efforts, in the community.

While funds for this project were secured through Gates Partners for Health, we truly want this garden project to be a community effort. Community gardens are most sustainable when the community buys in and takes ownership of the efforts. We want this effort to be one that brings the community together. In an effort to do so, we developed a Community Garden Planning and Development Committee, which is made up of some key community-based partners. Those partners include, Health Department Staff, Community Center Staff, Gates County Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Volunteers, our local 4-H agent, members of local faith communities, students and staff from Gates County Schools, as well as representation from the Gates County Board of Commissioners. All of whom will be involved in the development and upkeep of the garden, moving forward.

What are the goals of the project?

The primary goal is to increase access to healthy foods in the community while contributing to food security, helping individuals to learn about food systems, supporting local agriculture, and creating hands on learning activities that also provides the opportunity to engage in physical activity.

Gates County has its challenges when it comes to access to healthy foods. It’s a rural community with limited access to fresh, affordable foods. While a community garden won’t fix the issue of access to healthy foods for the community, in itself, it is a step in the right direction. Community Gardens are a great way to promote healthy eating and chronic disease prevention. The 2021 Community Health Assessment data indicates that the three leading causes of death in Gates County were heart disease, cancer, and cerebrovascular diseases. According to the CDC, eating healthy helps in the prevention, delay, and management of chronic conditions such as Obesity, Type II Diabetes, Heart Disease, and other chronic diseases. Community Gardens are an evidence- based intervention when it comes to chronic disease prevention and increasing access to healthy foods. They not only generate healthy foods for the community, but they also provide an opportunity for physical activity. Tending to a garden requires light aerobic exercise such as walking, bending, and lifting. Anyone with experience in gardening will tell you that it can certainly be a workout.

Where will the garden be located?

The garden will be located at the Gates Community Center. The Community Center already had an existing garden that was developed some years ago through a different project. The garden still exists, but the Community Center shared that the initial momentum of that the project has significantly dwindled and that the garden could use some updating and revitalization.

We are excited about the opportunity to pour into the Community Center’s existing efforts to help revamp the garden through the collaboration of a variety of community-based partners. We hope that this effort will re-spark some interest from community members of all ages and backgrounds. Again, we truly want this to be a true community effort, and we feel that having the garden located at the Community Center, where many community members are already visiting and participating in various activities, will help us to further that mission.

When will this projected garden be established?

Our goal is to start a Spring/Summer garden. We plan to have the initial development of the garden completed by June 2023. However, we know that gardens are constantly a work in progress. It is our hope that this initiative will act as a spark to rejuvenate community gardening efforts in Gates county and will be an on-going initiative that will benefit the community, for years to come.

Who is responsible for the upkeep? Individuals or groups?

The community is! Any and every one interested in learning about gardening or wanting to give back to the community is invited to participate and help us tend to the garden. The success of community gardens is a direct reflection of the efforts of community members.

Anybody living, working, or visiting Gates County can volunteer to participate in the garden’s development and upkeep. We are inviting community members to volunteer to come out and help us to get the garden re-established through the prepping of beds and planting of plants on Saturday, April 29 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Those who wish to volunteer must sign up at: or by calling Shayla Hayes at 252-426-2105.

To learn more about the community garden and other volunteer opportunities, Contact: Shayla Hayes at: 252-426-2105 or