On Saturday, April 4, 2015, Innisfree Hotels will break ground on its ‘From the Ground Up’ sustainable garden. The project is a volunteer-driven initiative to provide fresh food and employment opportunities to disadvantaged members of our local community.
Innisfree founder and CEO Julian MacQueen and his wife, Kim, implemented a formal corporate social responsibility program called The Hive in 2015. The community garden is among its first projects. The garden is one that had been abandoned at 711 N. Hayne Street and will ultimately be integrated into the City’s Hollice T. Williams Urban Linear Greenway Framework Plan.
“We ‘break ground’ every year to build hotels, this time we are building community,” MacQueen says. “We’re planting more than vegetables … we’re planting the opportunity for kids and their parents to be part of something big.”
Catherine McCreery, a gardener who specializes in heritage seeds and permaculture companion organic planting, was hired by Innisfree to manage the project. Local gardening enthusiasts and Innisfree employees have spent the last month volunteering their time to repair the garden’s structure, remove contaminated soil and prepare the beds for planting.
At Saturday’s dig-in beginning at 11 a.m., a team of approximately 70 volunteers will fill 36 beds with over 4,000 plants grown from heirloom seeds collected and preserved by McCreery – including beans, okra, eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers and pumpkins. The garden will grow horizontally and vertically, increasing production by half.
“This project means the world to me,” McCreery says. “These seeds have been in my family for generations, and now they will be used to preserve Southern heirloom plants and teach people how to grow sustainable gardens.” When the garden is ready, McCreery and Innisfree volunteers will host free learn to grow programs for children and adults. Participants will ‘reap what they sow’ and take home fresh vegetables, a container of soil and some of Cat’s precious seeds.
Innisfree will fund the not-for-profit ‘From the Ground Up’ garden in its initial two phases. In the third phase, the produce will be sold at local farmer’s markets and to restaurants to generate revenue to sustain the garden financially and provide paid jobs in an underserved community. Innisfree will continue to manage the garden and volunteers will continue to maintain and enjoy its bounty.