By Tina Dirmann

BCBSLA Foundation Staff Writer

About 30 Lake Charles Parish residents showed up to the local Royal Magnolia Community Garden on Saturday with hopes of learning a little about building a backyard garden. But some folks got a lot more than just a raised garden demonstration. They actually won a garden. In their own backyard. Complete with set-up from a personal master gardner (Derek Hasha).

How cool is that?

Among the 10 winners? A teacher from John J Johnson Elementary School, who was there on behalf of her students. And Arlond and Rachel Goodell, who, in exchange for their new backyard garden, volunteered to also help maintain the community garden (weeding, harvesting, food bank deliveries).

Dare to Be Healthy, a Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana grant supported wellness initiative, hosted Saturday’s event.

Says Daniel Edwards, who helped oversee How to Build a Raised Garden demonstration,  “Attendees had an opportunity to pick the crops and actually bring home over 45 pounds of tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, peppers, and carrots!”

Below, Edwards explains more about Saturday’s event — and how those 10 lucky participants won their own fall gardens…

Saturday’s demonstration was different than others we’ve hosted in the past because we wanted to increase participation. Other demos have not been well attended. So, as an incentive, we decided to offer ten home backyard gardens in exchange for volunteering in our community garden. The raised gardens will be 4×4 in size and we’ll provide all the labor and materials, which is about a $250 value. Derrick Hasha and Tamica Tassin, our master gardeners, will provide the installation.
We really promoted the program, hanging flyers around community, posts on our Facebook page and on our website. And it worked because we had a great turn out. About 30 people showed up from all around the parish, not just North Lake Charles, where the community garden is. So that was very exciting. From those 30, we drew ten names out of a hat. One winner was a school teacher who showed up on behalf of John J Johnson Elementary School in Central Lake Charles. I was very excited to hear that. All these gardens will be planted in the fall. So they will do their volunteer work now, in summer, pulling weeds, harvesting crops, distributing to food banks.  And get a free garden come fall. And for everyone else that came out, they not only got a free demonstration and garden tour, they got to harvest crops and take home whatever they picked: squash, cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots, jalopenos peppers. So  yes, it was a great day and a really great event for the community.