Jeremiah’s Community Garden in need of equipment

By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Kyle Hamrick

“Give what you can, take what you need” is the motto that guides Jeremiah’s Community Garden, a nonprofit food provider located off James I. Harrison Parkway.

For the past seven years, the garden has provided fresh, healthy food to people in need across West Alabama, along with educational opportunities for young people.

They just planted 2,000 feet of okra, and expect to harvest 100 pounds a day. There are orchards of apple and fig trees, and arches covered with blackberries, raspberries, muscadines and more.

Now, with their 25-year-old tractor broken down, they need help to continue their helping mission.

“Our objective is to raise food,” said Roy Lofton, who manages the nonprofit with his wife, Bettye, “because a lot of people can’t afford to go to the store and buy fruits and vegetables.”

Lofton said the garden needs a new tractor to till the soil, make rows and expand. Their small tiller helps, but it can’t do as much work as a new tractor could.

Fruits and vegetables grown by dedicated volunteers feed people through the West Alabama Food Bank, Turning Point Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services and several churches in Tuscaloosa and surrounding counties.

Though changing seasons don’t change people’s needs, Lofton said he has seen an uptick in visitors to the garden as food prices rise.

“People (are still) desperate trying to make ends meet, especially with a family,” he said.

Francis “Fran” Viselli said working in the garden helped him after his wife died two years ago.

“If it wasn’t for the Loftons and this garden as a sanctuary,” he explained, “I wouldn’t have made it.”

As managers of the garden, he and the Loftons have big plans for the future, including aquaponic and hydroponic systems to grow crops year round.

Volunteers come from Publix, Stillman College, the University of Alabama and all over to, as Viselli said, “be part of the creation that’s happening here.”

Andrew Hoggle, who works at the Mercedes-Benz Parts and Consolidation Plant, said volunteering with Jeremiah’s Garden opened his eyes.

“Being a middle-class person having everything that I need, I don’t see what the community needs,” he explained, “and that there’s people that aren’t able to afford or provide for their family what they should be able to.”

Hoggle said he looks forward to more volunteering, helping the garden increase the quality and quantity of its crops.

“Being able to come out here, just work the garden and be able to help it grow and provide for other people is honestly just an amazing feeling,” he said.

For more information and volunteer opportunities, check out their Facebook page, or call Bettye Lofton at 205-242-3772.

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