September 2012

FISH HAUL FARM

Author: Special To C2 Magazine

How important are volunteers to our community? Port Royal Plantation residents found out this spring when trying to answer the bigger question: “How do you take a $31,000 project and build it for around $6,000?” Volunteers from the Fish Haul Farm in Port Royal Plantation recently completed their community garden on time and within their limited budget with a small amount of help from their plantation maintenance crew.

For the last dozen or so years, landowners in Port Royal Plantation had requested a community garden, only to see the request put aside as high costs and a lack of volunteers willing to see the project through stood in the way. Many people consider living in the heavily treed and lushly vegetated plantation, one with over a mile of pristine beach, a slice of paradise. However, one thing was missing for some homeowners. Because of the heavy tree cover, many residences have but a few hours of sun per day, not enough for potential gardeners to grow vegetables or sun-loving flowers. Enter Lynn Baskin, chairman of the Community Affairs Committee in Port Royal who took up the request.

Under Baskin’s direction, a committee of hopeful farmers was formed to analyze costs, this time using only materials and excluding labor as a deciding factor. They realized it could be done for much less than the original cost estimate. Initial dues would be set at $80 per plot, with an additional cost of $120-$170 for raised box materials and soil, depending on the type of soil used. These fees would cover the cost of all materials needed, with a small amount left as a beginning fund for a future storage shed. Everyone agreed that while the first year’s tomatoes would be pricey, subsequent yearly dues would be an affordable $30. Several members stated at the time that all hobbies have start-up costs, and as hobbies go, this one wasn’t unreasonable.

The plantation’s decision to locate the half-acre farm next to the tennis courts, which already had paved parking and easy access to water and electricity, saved the farm members thousands of dollars in acquiring access to those necessities and made the farm an affordable endeavor. Tucked away on a side street also meant no homeowner was looking directly at deer fencing or planting boxes.

With no one willing to step up and take responsibility for leading such a daunting project, Karen Cleyrat and Carol Karszes agreed to share the job as co-presidents with Fran Baselice coming aboard as secretary and treasurer. With the board of directors voted in at a December meeting and the constitution approved, plans for construction began with a projected completion date of March 15, 2012. Members created a site plan, locating fencing, water spigot outlets, planting boxes, and a designated place for a future shed. In January, farm members began by digging holes, pouring concrete, setting posts, and stringing wire for an electrified fence to keep deer out.

The farm took advantage of various volunteers and their knowledge of construction, including help from Jack Leland, who grew up on a farm and built fences with his father and brothers as a teenager. As a part-time resident, Jack does not have a plot, but volunteered nearly 100 hours of his time, because he wanted to be involved and was friends with other members. Anne Marie Lauzon’s construction knowledge came from her own remodeling experiences and the countless hours she has volunteered over the years with Habitat for Humanity. In all, well over 1,000 work hours have been invested in the creation of the community garden.

Throughout the building process, the committee found creative ways to reduce material costs by finding free supplies, using available discounts and negotiating with vendors. Brainstorming ways to save on fence costs took on a humorous note when Cleyrat lamented to the fence committee that in South Carolina, the closest tractor supply company was two hours away. She was reminded by Walt Marcinkowski to check locations in nearby Georgia. It turned out the nearest TSC was only 30 minutes away, and they had everything needed for construction of the electric fence with reasonable pricing and a wealth of knowledge they eagerly shared with the fence builders. That is just one example of how teamwork made this project a success.

Dan Davis, PRP plantation manager, was at first a little skeptical that a group of volunteers would be able to create a professional looking area, but was quickly impressed by the work done by the farm volunteers on his weekly visits to check progress. In support, he generously allowed PRP maintenance workers to install the water lines to the box sites after the farm members rented a Ditch Witch, which made the job go quickly. Lester Anderson used his expertise with a Bobcat to move mulch for ground cover and later filled the planting boxes with garden soil, thus saving the members many hours of backbreaking labor. The farm was completed by the volunteers who finished spreading mulch and building and moving the raised planting boxes into place and was ready for planting March 19, only four days later than originally scheduled.

Members immediately planted tomatoes, zucchini, squash, watermelon, eggplant, herbs, peppers, carrots, beets, and other delectable vegetables, plus various brightly colored flowers. Stopping by early in the morning affords members the opportunity to work in their gardens before the heat takes over, and many linger to speak with neighbors about what is growing best and how to prepare what they have just harvested. One thing all the farmers have in common is finding bugs and animals that want to eat their vegetables before they become ripe. Finding ways to combat them with natural and store-bought options has been a topic of discussion among the many garden “virgins” this summer.

With some money left in the budget and the support of the plantation, the farm members decided to construct a small storage building this year rather than next year so Fish Haul Farm members would not have to bring their equipment every time they visited, but have a safe and dry location for storage. Since many members prefer to walk or bike to the farm, this was a perfect solution.

Marcinkowski, Donn Enggren, Jack Leland, the Cleyrats, and Fran Baselice organized and directed most of the farm and storage building activities, with Bill Tiso adding his construction know-how. Other farm members generously donated their time for designated workdays, helping to keep the project on schedule. Karszes donated hanging baskets of impatiens to frame the door, while Lois Heitzke used her artistic talents and finished off the shed with a hand-painted sign spelling out Fish Haul Farm, using vegetables for letters—the perfect final touch for the project.

The grand opening ceremony was held July 11, after completion of the shed, with Mayor Pro-Tem Ken Heitzke cutting the ribbon and congratulating and thanking members for their efforts. The ribbon cutting was followed by a harvest party that evening where farm members brought and shared a dish made from one or more ingredients grown in their gardens. Zucchini was made into delicious zucchini bread; eggplant became a tasty casserole; tomatoes and cucumbers went into a salad; fresh mint leaves were placed on top of chocolate cupcakes; tomatoes were baked into pies…and so on.

Approximately 15 plots remain for additional gardeners, with a designated area for organic farming. If you happen to be in Port Royal Plantation, stop by and take a look at our newest amenity.

For more information, visit portroyalplantation.net/clubs/fish-haul-farmers or call (843) 681-5114.

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