Spalding County was recognized with a 2021 County Excellence Award from Georgia Trend magazine and the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia for the Healthy Life Community Garden project in Griffin, Georgia’s Fairmont community.

Labeled a food desert by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Fairmont community in Griffin, Georgia, has historically had slim options for sourcing fresh, nutritious food nearby. But this desert is becoming an oasis of fresh fruits and vegetables thanks to a group of dedicated agencies and volunteers who have worked hard for nearly 10 years to create a thriving community garden.

The Healthy Life Community Garden — which was established in 2012 — began as a partnership between the city of Griffin, the Fairmont Community, Griffin Housing Authority, the local chapter of the NAACP, Spalding County, the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension office in Spalding County, and UGA’s Center for Urban Agriculture (CUA). Funding for the project comes from a yearly grant from the Griffin Housing Authority and covers the cost of supplies for operating the garden and a garden manager.

“The creation of the garden has been huge,” said Ellen Bauske, senior public service associate for the CUA on UGA’s Griffin campus, who authors the grant request each year. “In fact, the greatest fruits of our labor are not in the ground or what is in the beds, it is the marvelous way the garden has brought people together. It is truly a community garden, and I am very proud that I was able to do my little part. What is amazing is so many people have done their little part to make it what it is today.”