Mary Katherine Murphy
Sarah Brown brings her childhood affinity for plants and home grown vegetables to her new position as Scotland County Cooperative Extension’s community garden director.
“I have always done some form of gardening or grown plants,” Brown said. “I love to grow my own food; as a kid I remember growing my own vegetables and fruit and just seeing how cool it was to go outside and pick a strawberry out of the garden and eat it, or a tomato. It always seemed to taste better than what was at the grocery store.”
Brown, a native of Wilmington, replaces former community garden coordinator Melissa Tomas, who has moved out of state. She holds a degree in biology from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke with concentrations in botany and environmental science.
The position is part of a five-year Community, Youth, and Families at Risk grant from the Cooperative Extension Program at N.C. A&T State University. The program began two years ago, with grants extended to three North Carolina counties: Scotland, Durham, and Bertie.
“The idea of the grant was to find pockets in North Carolina that have a need for self-sustaining food systems, or gardens, and we were one of three counties selected in the state,” said Randy Wood, Scotland County Extension director. “The biggest portion of it is having someone like Sarah who goes out and tries to keep these gardens going.”
Current projects in Scotland County include the Wagram community garden and a garden conducted at Wagram Primary School last year, with an upcoming garden project within the Laurinburg Housing Authority. This fall, school garden programs will also be implemented at North Laurinburg Elementary and Washington Park Elementary.
In addition to exposing more Scotland County residents to basic gardening skills, Brown’s work will also focus on expanding their awareness of nutrition.
“She will also conduct educational programs with the gardeners seasonally, with what to look for and how to prepare for planting in the next season, and bringing classes of interest in,” said Sharon English, Family and Consumer Sciences extension agent. “She’ll be bringing some more nutrition-based classes to them in the next year with ways that they can utilize the produce that they’re growing in healthy ways.”
Brown recently completed an Extension master gardener program in Robeson County, and hopes in more than one way to bring a taste of her own experiences to Scotland County residents, especially children.
“That’s one of the things that drew me to this, giving kids the same experience I had when I was little,” she said. “Showing them what it’s like to go outside and pick food and eat it and helping people understand that they can grow their own food - there’s nothing better than a ripe tomato. Sometimes it’s challenging, having to deal with the insects and different plant diseases and whatnot, but it can be very rewarding.”
Brown hopes to make fresh fruits and vegetables more accessible by facilitating hands-on experience.
“Trying to help people eat healthier, that’s a really big thing for me,” said Brown. “A lot of people think that healthy food is nasty - people don’t want to eat green things. So whenever you can have a healthy society, where people are eating and getting the nutrients that they need through fresh fruit and fresh vegetables, that’s really something.”