Growing a healthy future; 97 AMW opens Community Garden

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Amanda Lovelace
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Airmen and families from the 97th Air Mobility Wing gathered for a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the new Community Garden at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, Aug. 20, 2021.

The ceremony signified the official opening of the garden, which was made to provide a space where the base community could connect, educate and learn from each other.

“The idea is to help inspire everyone to increase the amount of nutritional produce they eat,” said Gayle Kenyon, 97th Medical Group health promotion coordinator. “We’re trying to build a higher interest or taste for plant foods. This is a fun, hands-on way to make sure you're getting the good, well-balanced nutrition we need. It’s also a way to build teamwork, leadership skills, and more than anything, getting outside in nature. That fresh air and vitamin D, those are big components to our overall health.”

The construction for the garden began in March of 2021. Through the hard work of 97th Civil Engineer Squadron members and volunteers from around the base, the garden has finally come to fruition and is ready for families to use.

“We are so proud of this project,” Kelly Niland, 97th Civil Engineer Squadron water quality and natural resources program manager. “It turned out way better than we could have imagined. It was a lot of hard work but for it to finally come together and look as beautiful as it does... We're just so excited for people to start gardening and using the space.”

The garden consists of eight 16 foot raised beds. Each bed is separated into four plots, coming to a total of 32 plots that are available for use. Each four-by-four plot is rented out for five dollars and are first come, first served. Rentals start at the beginning of each gardening season: fall and spring season.

“There are so many benefits to gardening,” Gayle said. “Nutrition is absolutely a big one, but there are so many additional benefits. It really feeds into the Air Force mission of fit families and resilience. It helps build communities and relationships, and feeling like you're a part of something is important. There is the nutrition component; but without a healthy mind, the body will suffer. The body is not healthy if the mind is not healthy. So getting out there makes a big difference on your outlook and your mental health.”

At this time, most of the slots are booked for the fall season. However, those who are interested in gardening can join the garden friends club and attend their monthly meetings to socialize, learn, and exchange knowledge.

For more information about how to get involved with the garden or garden friends club, contact one of the garden coordinators: Gayle Kenyon. 580-481-5647, Sheri Kinsey, 580-481-6199, or Yessi Ponciano, 580-481-6110.