With all the challenges going on right now, it might seem that planting a garden would be a luxury. For many of the residents of Windy Hill, it probably is. Many people in our affordable housing communities are front-line workers. They are the grocery employees, nursing home aides, and other essential workers that keep our economy, and our lives, running right now. Other residents are suffering from reduced or lost wages. At Windy Hill, we are working tirelessly to raise funds and partner with other organizations to provide food and ensure that no one goes without necessities or a roof over their head during the pandemic. Windy Hill Director Bob Dale notes, “In addition to all the fooddonations our residents depend upon, we have been fortunate to receive help to restore a few of our gardens. These gardens will produce healthy produce for our families to incorporate into their meals this summer. And they need to walk outside their door to enjoy the gardens!”
In early March, when the global pandemic was starting to affect us all, Desiree Lee and her team at Hunt Country Gardens were planting the first seeds at Virginia Lane (on Route 50, just outside of Middleburg) after Windy Hill reached out to ask for help restoring the garden plots. Desiree has been gardening for 20 years and has operated her business, Hunt County Gardens, for the past ten years. She specializes in perennial gardens, orchards, boxwood restoration, and container gardens. She has clients on private estates in and around Middleburg. Many of her lush flower boxes outside Gentle Harvest in Marshall and Hunters Head in Upperville have been envied. Desiree and her team weeded at the Virginia Lane garden, set soil, and sowed seeds right as we were all told to shelter in place. Those seeds are now producing a crop of collards, shelling peas, radishes, broccoli, kales, lettuce, celery, bunching onions, and strawberries. On the way will be tomatoes, zucchini, and squash. Desiree has invited the residents of Virginia Lane to take part in the garden’s caring and harvest, with social distancing measures in place. She will be sharing extra produce to the older adults at Levis Hill House. We are so thankful for Desiree for sharing her expertise, her labor, and the crops with our community.
And…our garden support does not end there. Windy Hill recently was the recipient, via the Town of Middleburg Go Green Committee, of a grant to promote healthy living at Levis Hill House. As a HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Living) gold member town, the Go Green Committee applied for this grant from the Institute for Public Health Innovation to promote increased access to nutritious food choices. Earlier this week, with Peter Leonard Morgan, the Town Council Representative on the Go-Green Committee, and a few of the residents of Levis, we planted three raised beds and more vegetables and herbs in the ground. The raised beds will allow some of the older residents to easily water and care for the plants. This garden includes a variety of tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, kale, collards, and herbs. If the garden grows as planned, the residents will have more tomatoes than they will know what to do with. This is a community garden, and hopefully, the residents of Llewelyn Village, right down the hill, will also enjoy the bounty. We included a bench so the residents could sit outside in the shade and watch the plants grow. As one can imagine, this pandemic has hit our elderly residents, especially hard, and we are working to make sure they remain healthy and not feeling isolated. Having an outdoor space for them to enjoy is a big part of creating an environment that leads to a healthy lifestyle. Peter Leonard-Morgan, Middleburg Town Council member, commented that “The Town of Middleburg and the Go Green Committee is thrilled to have been able to utilize a significant proportion of its HEAL grant to help our seniors at Levis Hill House with three raised planters, and a bench from which to admire their handiwork!”.
We are not done yet with our plans to revive the Windy Hill gardens and outdoor spaces. We hope to raise enough funds to provide picnic tables at all our properties in Loudoun and Fauquier, to rehab our playgrounds, and to revamp the third garden at Llewelyn Village Apartments and the Cottages on Windy Hill Road in Middleburg. Windy Hill is re-imagining all our resident programming, including a summer camp. Having outdoor venues will be critical this year more than ever, to promote healthy living. Bob Dale, Executive Director of Windy Hill, notes, “the gardens will play a small part in improving people’s lives. We hope the gardens become a new normal for our residents and encourage them to grow and eat healthy food.” If you would like to help us revive another garden, please call the office at 540-687-3997 or email Lisa@windyhillfoundation.org.