Community Organic Garden and Education Center
The River Bend Community Organic Garden exists to educate and encourage the community to improve its health and well-being by raising sustainable, organic food through best practice methods.
With permission from the Town Council and space on town land, a group of twelve organic vegetable gardening enthusiasts broke ground on Earth Day 2013. The mission of the Community Organic Garden evolved and it became a demonstration garden and education center, utilizing best organic practices, experimenting with varieties of vegetables, and sharing the outcomes with the community through workshops, our Lessons From The Garden column in the River Bender monthly town newspaper, and community presentations and consultations.
The Garden donates a minimum of ten percent of the harvest each year to the underserved and vulnerable client population of Interfaith Refugee Ministries. Town funding helped early development of the garden. In 2017-18 the garden will be fully self-supporting.
The garden is comprised of twenty-six raised beds including two for asparagus, a perennial. It operates year-round producing more than thirty different vegetables, including potatoes, peanuts, onions, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, squash, beans, cantaloupe and watermelon, many of which are started from seed in the greenhouse. A four-quadrant herb garden contains culinary, medicinal and ornamental plants. Crops are rotated to maintain healthy soil. Compost, made onsite, and mulch are used on the beds.
Monarch Butterfly Garden
Monarch butterflies may soon be added to the endangered species list due to the decimation of their only food source. With the help of a grant from the New Bern Garden Club and assistance from the New Bern High School Green Team, RBCOG coordinator Dee Smith designed a Monarch habitat on the grounds of the community organic garden. The students researched Monarch habitats built a garden and planted milkweed (Asclepias) they had started in the greenhouse. In the fall they were rewarded with a profusion of monarchs, on their migration from northern climates to Mexico. This location will become part of the Monarchs' multi-generational migration. In January 2017, the Monarch Habitat received approval as a Certified Monarch Garden from the North American Butterfly Association (NABA).
Bird and Butterfly Garden
From its inception, the garden has included a bird & butterfly section. Annual and perennial flowers are grown that draw butterflies and bees that will pollinate the nearby vegetables. Each year the garden evolves. It also offers seating that invites gardeners and visitors to stop, relax and enjoy the serenity of their surroundings.
The Green Team, a group of students from New Bern High School concerned about environmental issues and food sustainability, committed to working in the garden in 2013. They have remained with the garden for four years. The students work in the garden bi-weekly, starting each session with a lesson about best organic growing practices and then performing tasks related to the lesson and other garden activities. In 2016 they helped create the monarch butterfly habitat.