Community News Columns and Resource Sharing: Harmony Gardens and Manna House


Harmony Gardens will be hosting a community-wide work day and learning event Saturday June 8th, 2013!

Come to the event and…

  1. Get your hand in the dirt and plant some seeds, flowers, etc…
  2.  Learn how to have your own garden
  3. Mulch, so easy to do
  4. Weed and learn grass control tips
  5.  Adopt you own plot or 1/2 of a plot

 Begins at 8:00 AM and lessons begin at 9:00 Garden is at 4th and Boulder in Russellville, Arkansas! To get involved contact Wanzer at or call 479-747-1524. Your help is needed! And please spread the word.

Read more about Harmony Gardens in this Seed and the Story Column from April 17th, 2012:                  

I’ve always been a huge fan of community columns found in small-town papers. Here in central Arkansas a few of these columns still exist. Precursors to sights like Twitter and Facebook, these interactive columns about daily life in small communities provide an invaluable community service. When I first began writing this column I drew a great deal of inspiration from many of the core ideas behind these community news columns, particularity their focus on illuminating both local stories and local concerns and asking readers to send in ideas, stories, and questions.

I’m always so thankful when I receive an email, letter, phone conversation or run into someone who suggests I look into a story, meet a fascinating person, or learn more about a local concern. It’s a great privileged not only to hear this information, but also to share it with the paper’s readership. So, in the spirit of these community columns, and the larger concept of neighborliness, I’d like to pass on some information that I believe will be of use to readers.

On two different occasions in recent months I’ve had the opportunity to speak to the Pope County Master Gardeners and the Arkansas Master Naturalists about our work at the McElroy House: Organization for Folklife, Oral History, and Community Action, a small grassroots community organization dedicated to documenting and exploring living traditions and the stories of the region. Our current focus is meeting with area gardeners and small-scale growers to learn more about small-scale food production (and others forms of sustainable living) and explore how this community knowledge can be supported by all generations.

Quite often I meet folks who operate local food banks and offer free community meals. Often these food banks incorporate locally grown food and surplus from area gardens. They are always on the lookout for more local food and volunteers who can help grow this local community resource.  At the recent meeting of the Arkansas Master Naturalists I met Phil Wanzer who helps to operate Harmony Gardens, a small community garden space on land owned by the First United Methodist Church in Russellville.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe space is dedicated to growing food to share with the surrounding community and with the adjacent Manna House, “which supplies goods to the less fortunate,” explains Wanzer. Currently the Manna House offers a weekly meal to those in need, and the organization would love to incorporate more local food into this weekly meal, as well as offer more local produce to community members who can desperately use it. Church members will till additional garden beds, but community volunteers (regardless of church membership) are needed to help raise more food for this community resource.

Perhaps you’re a long-time gardener who’d be willing to tend to the garden or maybe you’re someone who has never gardened before but would love to work with others to learn more while also growing food for community members in need. To get involved contact Wanzer at or call 479-747-1524

Do you work with a local garden, food bank, have a bumper crop you’d like to donate to the larger community, or have any other connections to small-scale growing? We’d love to hear from you and share this information with other community members! To learn more about our ongoing work at the McElroy House, including recent support from the Pope County Community Foundation, visit Thanks so much for reading and for sharing your stories!


The Seed and the Story is a partnership with theCourier and Post Dispatch newspapers in Pope and Yell County, Arkansas. This weekly column explores folklife, oral history, and community in central Arkansas, particularly the Yell County area where the column originates. Columns are often written in partnership with the McElroy House: Organization for Folklife, Oral History, and Community Action and humbly attempt to bridge intergenerational themes in the region.