Last updated: August 07. 2013 9:17AM - 1720 Views
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PIKEVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Officials with Sustainable Pike County say they hope a community garden under construction in downtown Pikeville, Ky., is the first of many.

The group’s project aims to mirror the success seen by another sustainability project in Williamson, W.Va.

Williamson City Commissioner Eric Mathis told the Appalachian News-Express (http://bit.ly/12Jhoh5) that Sustainable Williamson, which has partnered with the Pike County group, responds to the need for a diversified sustainable economy though a market-based approach.

Pike County businessman Roger Ford says the garden will offer a multitude of opportunities.

“There are a lot of benefits,” Ford said. “Number 1, it benefits the growers by giving them fresher foods and giving them the chance to sell them to local businesses. No. 2, it benefits businesses by letting them buy locally and save money as transportation costs go up. It also lets them know where the food they serve comes from. And no. 3, it’s safer. All of this food is organic, which is a condition to use this garden. No chemicals or pesticides are allowed.”

In addition, he says it is self-sustainable, requiring little assistance from local governments.

Mathis said a similar effort in Williamson has greatly improved the community.

“Two years ago, you never saw anyone running around in Williamson,” Mathis said. “Since we started Sustainable Williamson, now we’ve got over 400 people that take part in our lunch walk, we’ve got people interested in a healthier lifestyle. This is a real-world economic development project.

“You can’t talk about economic diversity without a healthy community,” Mathis continued. “You also can’t talk about a healthy community without economic diversity — they go hand-in-hand — and this project aims to bring them together.”

Ford said Sustainable Pike County would like to partner with mining companies to grow food on post-mine land. He said that would give Pike County enough land to create large gardens that produce massive amounts of food.

“When we do this, we don’t only want to do small gardens like this one (in Pikeville),” Mathis said. “We want to do gardens along entire hillsides if the land is available.”

University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Office representative Suzanne Stumbo said efforts could have a significant impact.

“Things like this could be the answer to this county’s economic troubles,” Stumbo said

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