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College of Medicine Sows Seeds of Health in New Frayser Community Garden

Urban gardening volunteer Ernest Trice explains planting to area residents in the new Frayser Community Garden.
Urban gardening volunteer Ernest Trice explains planting techniques to area residents in the new Frayser Community Garden on Wednesday afternoon.

Ernest J. Trice, a volunteer urban gardener, stood at the edge of several plowed rows in a field in Frayser Wednesday afternoon explaining the finer points of sowing seeds to those who gathered for the fall planting kick-off of the Frayser Community Garden, a new outreach effort of the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

Trice, who lives in Hickory Hill, began working with urban gardens across the community about 10 years ago after retiring from JC Penney. He said he joined the Frayser planting, because he wanted to make sure the garden got off to a good start. “This is a passion,” he said. “I got started because of food deserts.” Trice also helps with children’s gardens in North Memphis, teaching the next generation how to plant, so they will know where their food comes from, and offering free vegetables for family tables.

The Frayser Garden is located on an unused plot that was formerly the archery range of The Links at Davy Crockett golf course. The garden is a collaboration of the residents of Frayser; the City of Memphis Division of Parks and Neighborhoods, which offered the land; the University of Tennessee Extension Institute of Agriculture; and the UTHSC College of Medicine and its Board of Visitors advisory council. The groups have worked for several months to establish the garden to improve access to locally grown, nutritional foods for Frayser residents. The seeds and tools were provided through a donation from a supporter of the UTHSC College of Medicine and UT Extension, which sent two agents for the planting.

“I think this is what’s supposed to happen,” said Nathan Lubin, a member of the college’s Board of Visitors, who brought his tractor to help till the beds. “We (the UTHSC College of Medicine) need to be in neighborhoods, where people don’t have access to the foods that they really want, and we need to give them activities that will encourage people to get up and get out and move. And then, to be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor is really special. Urban gardening is a good tool for overall health, both in physical activity and in nutrition.”

fall planting event inviting members of the community to begin the fall planting.
The UTHSC College of Medicine hosted the fall planting, inviting members of the community to get the garden started, take over its care, and reap the fruits of their labors..

Frayser residents were invited to attend and plant a variety of fall greens from seeds in the new garden. They planted purple-top turnips, kale, mustard greens, and more.

“This is incredible,” said College of Medicine Executive Dean Scott Strome, MD. “This is a partnership between UTHSC and our communities and the city, where we can start to provide together healthy fruits and vegetables from areas that were formerly blighted land in Memphis.”

Altha Stewart, MD, the senior associate dean of Community Health Engagement in the College of Medicine, organized the garden and the planting event. “This is the first step in really solidifying this collaboration between the university and the community around healthy lifestyles,” she said. “The community garden is the first step in our introducing ourselves to the Frayser community as a partner that really cares and thinks about their health.”

Reginia Dowell, who has lived in Frayser more than 40 years and is a member of the community’s Garden Council and the Garden Communications Committee, was pleased with the fall planting and the prospect of things to come. “Planting here in the Frayser community means a lot, because it is a place to bring the community together, where we can give fresh vegetables free to everybody and it also allows us to have a partnership with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. So that is why it is very important we start our first time out. Next time should be better, and we look forward to getting better. I’ve already learned a lot. We’ll hopefully get more people interested and connect with them to come out and choose spots, so we can start planting more in the spring.”