We are so pleased to announce that Mulberry Fields community garden in Candler Park has joined the Wylde Center as its fifth garden. To find out how this came about and how you can get more involved with Mulberry Fields, we have included an article written for the Candler Park Neighborhood Organization that will be printed in their July 2016 newsletter.
(Article ran in the July 2016 Candler Park Neighborhood Organization’s newsletter.)
Conversation between Stephanie Van Parys, Wylde Center Executive Director and Jesse Bathrick, the co-founder of Mulberry Fields Community Garden.
On July 1, Mulberry Fields Community Garden and Green Space will become Wylde Center- Mulberry Fields Garden. We are excited to share more about this partnership, how it came to be, and the wonderful resources Wylde Center brings to the garden and Candler Park.
The story really begins 25 years ago when Jesse Bathrick, a Candler Park resident since 1979 met Sally Wylde resulting in a friendship that spanned similar interests in art, gardening, and community building. In 1997, Sally Wylde and her husband, Britt Dean, started the Oakhurst Community Garden Project in Decatur. In 1999, Jesse and Dick Bathrick started Mulberry Fields Community Garden in Candler Park on an acre that neighbors, including Betsy Abrams and Matt Crowther, saved from development in 1993. You could say that these two gardens have grown up together.
Fast forward to 2013 and much has changed at both gardens. The Oakhurst Community Garden Project is now known as the Wylde Center named in honor of the late Sally Wylde. The Wylde Center manages not one, but four gardens including the original Oakhurst Garden in Decatur, Sugar Creek Garden and Herb Farm in Decatur, Hawk Hollow in Kirkwood (Atlanta), and the Edgewood Community Learning Garden (Atlanta).
Mulberry Fields has grown into a cherished greenspace beloved by its community and plot holders. For these many years Jesse and Dick have been managing the daily operations of this community garden, including workdays, field trips, birthday parties, and so much more. It was at a meeting about chickens several years ago that Jesse introduced the idea to Stephanie Van Parys, executive director of the Wylde Center, about passing on Mulberry Fields to the Wylde Center. Thus, the idea was born, and as any big concept, it takes time to think through what the end result might look like. A year ago, the conversation started in earnest, resulting in a decision to pass the management reins of Mulberry Fields to the Wylde Center. On July 1, 2016, Mulberry Fields will officially become the Wylde Center’s fifth garden.
JB: What was it about Mulberry Fields that you thought it should be part of the Wylde Center?
SVP: When you and I first spoke three years ago, the idea immediately made sense. The friendship between you and Sally and the efforts you both put into your respective gardens was one that I wanted to honor by making Mulberry Fields a sister garden to the Oakhurst Garden. I first visited Mulberry Fields when you were on a Georgia Organics farm tour back in the late 90’s. I was impressed then and continue to be impressed by this oasis your group has created in the middle of the city. To have your garden join the Wylde Center’s other gardens and to have a part in helping sustain its longevity is a decision based on a gut feeling that says, “we have to do this.” Plus, we love being able to establish a relationship with the Candler Park community — really a neighbor to our homebase in Oakhurst.
JB: As the word has gotten out about this new relationship, I have been asked many questions including how will this partnership affect the feel of this garden? Will it suddenly have an increase in visitors that may not necessary live in Candler Park?
SVP: Mulberry Fields will be listed on our website along with our other gardens and is always open to the public. I think you will get new visitors who are curious about the space. However, the majority of the people who will be spending time at Mulberry Fields are those who live nearby and can walk over with a picnic or to visit with the goats. Mulberry Fields will be used for our education programs and those field trips will take place during the school day.
JB: Yes, let’s talk about education at Mulberry Fields. Will you share more detail?
SVP: Sure! In addition to the Wylde Center managing five different gardens, we also have an extensive environmental education program which includes outreach to schools in Decatur and Atlanta covering science and farm to school topics as well as field trips to our gardens. Mulberry Fields is going to be a special and popular destination for field trips. We will encourage the local schools to take advantage of our fee-based field trips at Mulberry Fields as well as schools that come from a distance. Field trips are limited to 25 students at a time.
JB: Another question I’ve been asked is what is staying the same?
SVP: It is so important to us the that the welcoming and “let’s explore nature” feeling you get at Mulberry Fields stays the same. It is an artsy, magical, intown oasis that we love and wouldn’t change for any reason. Like the Wylde Center’s other gardens, this garden will stay open to the public from dawn to dusk.
We don’t have any major site changes in mind at the moment. What you will see in addition to the twice-a-year plot holder workdays will be regular workdays with volunteers that sign up through Hands-on Atlanta. The children’s play area will be tidied up. Perimeter areas that are overgrown will slowly transition to beds featuring plants that host our pollinators. Signage will be added. We will build on the already great infrastructure.
JB: What will the Wylde Center bring to Mulberry Fields?
SVP: Very exciting is that Mulberry Fields will be managed by both JC Hines, our Greenspace Director, and Mary Jane Leach acting as the site coodinator to lead workdays, communicate with the plot holders and community, and manage day-to-day needs of the garden. Clint Thornton is our Public Programs Coordinator who will be the contact for birthday parties and other site rentals. He is also in charge of community events and right now is busy working with Mulberry Fields volunteers to plan the July 16 Mulberry Fields Gone Wylde. In the fall, Mulberry Fields will host a S’Mores for All, a very popular event we host at all of gardens. Sarah Dasher and Allison Ericson are the educators you will see working at the garden. Blair Keenan is our Development Director and she will be working with the Candler Park community to raise important funds to support our work at Mulberry Fields.
JB: How can the community support this transition?
SVP: There are so many ways the community can support the Wylde Center coming to Candler Park and Mulberry Fields: continue to visit the garden with your friends and family; volunteer for a work day or join a committee; encourage your school to come on a field trip; celebrate your child’s birthday at the garden; invest in the effort being made by the Wylde Center staff and Mulberry Fields’ volunteers by donating to the Wylde Center.
www.wyldecenter.org is the place to find out more information about all of these activities.
JB: Will you talk a bit more about donating to the Wylde Center. Will these donations support Mulberry Fields?
SVP: Certainly! All monies raised through Mulberry Fields are (a) tax-deductible and (b) will be used to directly support this beautiful garden. We are counting on several streams of income to support the garden and staff working on site. Income from field trips, site rentals, fundraisers, and personal donations are all vital for making this partnership work. We love it when a community invests in their local garden. A donation makes you a member of the Wylde Center and it also supports our work in Candler Park. We will have a donation table set up at the July 16 Mulberry Fields Gone Wylde event.
SVP: What about you? Why are you excited about this partnership and Wylde Center’s presence in Candler Park?
JB: I believe that the Wylde Center and its staff will be able to take Mulberry Fields to the next level. The Candler Park community loves Mulberry Fields exactly how it is, but also wants more from the site. They want to bring their children for field trips or have their birthday parties there. Wylde Center offers the structure to make that all happen. With the Wylde Center, we have room to dream the future such as adding an environmental playscape, building a permanent bathroom, expanding the native and edible gardens, partnering with Master Gardeners, bringing in honey bees, etc, etc! I couldn’t be more excited.