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Work Day Is Fun at Suwanee Community Garden

Harvest Farm plot holders gather for a regular work session.

Rosie the mule likes it when Randy Bieniek visits the community garden at White Street Park in Suwanee.

"(Rosie) sees me and comes running," Bienek said Saturday after giving Rosie a treat at the pasture across from the park. "She's my horse fix."

Bienek and several other Suwanee residents were out early Saturday morning for a work session at Harvest Farm, the organic garden at White Street Park. Obviously, taking care of plants and general garden maintenance also was on the agenda.

The work sessions are held the last Saturday of every month at the popular garden, which has plots that are leased out by the city. Among the workers was Dan Foster, Suwanee council member and chairman of the maintenance committee. Also present was Chantez Daya, head of the Harvest Farm Managing Board.

Daya was being particularly brutal, wielding a weed torch in some areas. But the garden's popularity is such that other cities are emulating Suwanee; Daya recently was asked to speak to Norcross officials about a community garden there.

There are 76 plots at the garden, ranging in size from 5 feet by 6 feet to 5x12. Prices range $50-$100 yearly, with discounts for city residents. There is a waiting list, and there also is an open area to the rear of the park that could be used for more plots.

Bieniek grew up gardening in Norcross. "I hated it," she said. "Now here I am doing it. It's fun now ... it's small.

"I've got triplets (age 11). I want them to understand how things grow."

It's also a family affair for Cortney Dawkins of Suwanee, who brings her daughter, 3, to help. Their plot also helps to cut down on grocery bills; the family has grown tomatoes, basil, green beans, carrots and peppers.

"We eat all of it," Dawkins said. "We're having to get creative since there are so many tomatoes."

Missing from the scene Saturday were Rosemary and Sweet Pea, the two hens who are in line for a coop remodeling; they have been temporarily relocated until the new digs are ready.

The hens need help, too. Hen and coop care is rotated on a weekly basis. Whoever is on duty comes by at sunup to let the hens out of the inner coop and provide feed and water, poined out Stan Bieniek, Randy's husband. Then they go back inside the inner coop in the evening.

The payoff? Sometimes they lay eggs during the day, which go home with whoever is on duty.

When workers need rest, they can sit inside the barn, which is equipped with chairs and a refrigerator. Also, a noteboard and chalkboard have postings of classes at the garden and other community information.

"(The garden) is well thought out," one worker said Saturday.

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