, 2023-04-12 23:05:18,
Not too far from downtown Greensboro’s hustle and bustle sits Keeley Park, an unassuming gem of a City facility tucked near the City’s northeast border. It is popular for its adaptive, inclusive recreation facilities and programming. Visitors enjoy a sprayground, paved trails, a bike pump track, and an 18-hold disc golf course, among other attractions.
The park is also home to one of the City’s five community gardens and to Julie Hale’s office. Hale became Greensboro’s first full-time community garden coordinator in 2018 after working for the Forsyth County Cooperative Extension in Winston-Salem.
Some might call Hale a missionary of sorts, preaching a message of organic and community gardening. She gladly shares her experience with all she meets, whether renters who take advantage of the City’s low rates ($15-$35 annually) for garden plots or Keeley Park visitors simply exploring the area.
“Magic can happen when you start this [gardening] journey,” Hale says. While gardening is not for everyone, she believes those who are called to plant and grow experience things that are very difficult to put into words.
“It sort of changes your brain. And you have to try it to see if it’ll do that for you because I’m sure it’s different for everybody.”
Like the food she grows, Hale came to gardening naturally. The third-generation gardener cites her mother and grandmother’s examples as reasons for her love of growing plants. “I think it’s in my blood,” Hale says. “I don’t remember a time that we didn’t have a backyard vegetable garden and when [my mom] didn’t have flowers and rose bushes and everything else. It has been a constant in my life.
“The first thing I remember planting by myself was gladioli. When they finally bloomed that summer, it was magic. And I was hooked from that moment on. There’s something about having a hand in bringing something beautiful into the world that can really change you.”
Hale discovered a book she called “the bible of organic gardening” a few years later and she was hooked. “I was already an avid gardener with my mom, but I just did what she did. I read that book and everything changed in terms of my perspective and my approach.”
After high school, Hale continued her education at the University of Georgia where she tried a few different areas of study before eventually earning a degree in horticulture.
“I have a never-ending curiosity and fascination for gardening and nature in…
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