Children and adults alike will be able to learn hands-on gardening skills at the Petal Healing Garden’s inaugural Kid’s Gardening Camp, through a partnership with Grand Central Outfitters.
During the event, which will be held from 10 am-3 pm July 23 at the outfitters building at 128 South Main Street in Petal, garden staff will teach kids how to plant tomato plants. In addition, a local beekeeper will be on hand to provide knowledge about that subject.
Admission is $10 per child, and adults accompanying them get in free.
“This is basically centered around kids and getting them excited about gardening, and hopefully we’ll be able to do this once a year, but we’re just trying to raise funds for the garden,” founder Keeley Morgan said. “People are kind of familiar with the garden already – I’ve gotten a lot of support from the community that I’m very thankful for – but this is just another event for us to do on our own to kind of establish our presence in the community and get to know everybody a little bit better.
“In the process, we can raise funds for the garden to continue our efforts of providing fresh produce for food-insecure families, and giving the community something to be involved in.”
There will also be a paint booth on site, and the Petal cheerleaders and dance team have been invited to participate as volunteers.
“We haven’t made it official yet, but we thought about maybe getting them to a dance or something like that,” Morgan said.
Morgan established the Petal Healing Garden in November 2021 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit to help provide food and to reduce waste in the community. One of the main goals of the garden is to teach food sustainability to members of the community by providing the tools and resources necessary to not only grow food, but to unify the community.
“Mississippi is a food-insecure state; we have a lot of problems with that around the state,” Morgan said. “I just wanted to do my part to give back to give back, because I’m very passionate about that – I’ve always had a servant’s heart.
“I come from a single-parent household, so I know the struggle with basically trying to make ends meet, because I watched my mom go through that. So it’s always been my goal to give back to the community in some type of capacity.”
Through her volunteer work with the Mississippi Rising Coalition, Morgan noticed that group had set up a community garden at the Oseola McCarty Youth Development Center in Hattiesburg.
“I said, ‘hey, that would probably be a good thing for Petal,'” Morgan said. “Basically, everybody can collaborate their efforts, to where we’re able to provide these families with fresh produce.
“But I took it a step further, and not only that, I see that agriculture and horticulture is not a popular topic nowadays, in terms of trying to get kids and teenagers involved. So I thought it would be good to provide fresh produce to food-insecure families, but on the flip side of that, we need to teach our children how to sustain themselves just in case something happens to where we have to go back to gardening or canning.”
After Morgan harvests her crops, she donates much of it to the Petal Children’s Task Force on South George Street.
“We plan on giving 50 percent of our proceeds every year of what we harvest to them,” she said. “What I’m thinking of doing that will make it a little better is to where we pack up boxes and people can just give a donation, like $10 or $20, and just come get a box.
“Or if they want to go out and harvest, we do have a sign out there that says to call before you harvest, in case we haven’t met our goal yet with the task force. I tried the ‘rent-a-bed’ thing, but nobody really showed any interest in it.”
The Petal Healing Garden currently has two locations: one near Adams’ Nursery & Plant Center on Carterville Road, and a spot behind the city’s sports complex. The spot at the nursery was donated by that organization, and the spot at the complex was approved for use by the City of Petal back in April.
“We do plan on expanding in the future, but we have to have manpower for that,” Morgan said. “Each site would be independent of itself, to where the one by Adams’ will be used to grow flowers or additional crops for the task force or other places.
“We do have some businesses that have shown some interest in purchasing peppers or onions or something like that, to keep us going monetarily. There’s a lot of things behind the scenes; we just have to get there, and I’m just trying to take baby steps, because I don’t want to burn myself out and I don’t want to burn my board out.”
To learn more about the Petal Healing Garden, visit www.petalhealinggarden.org or visit the garden’s Facebook page.