Christy Carroll-Hendricks was in fifth grade at Indian Lakes Elementary when she planted her first vegetable garden.
Today, she is the team horticulturist at the Virginia Beach Community Garden (VBCG), which she designed as part of a class project while studying Landscape Design at Tidewater Community College’s Chesapeake Campus.
VBCG is the brainchild of Virginia Beach residents Helene Tisdale and her husband, Chuck Kellen. They got the idea after watching a Ted Talk about an English community that had turned open spaces in their town into gardening spots. A year later they connected with Sentara Princess Anne, who provided the land, and the community garden was born.
The garden has since grown to include 52 separate spaces. “It’s an honor to see my design put into action,” Carroll-Hendricks said. “Watching the garden spring to life has given me even more incentive to keep going.”
The garden, which is located at the busy intersection of Dam Neck Road and Glenn Mitchell Drive in Virginia Beach, feeds hundreds of families’ fresh fruits and vegetables.
Carroll-Hendricks says her son, Brody, who has special needs, inspired the project.
“Accessibility is a big deal for us, as Brody is wheelchair bound. I can attest to the difficulty we have accessing some locations. Nobody should be left out because they can’t physically get to a location where an activity is taking place,” Carroll-Hendricks said.
The design features wide paths, raised beds and easy access to the space. It will soon have benches and shaded areas where people can stop and rest. Eventually it will include a
pavilion at the center.
Carroll-Hendricks, who is a board member for VBCG, spends about 20 hours a week tending the crops, which are flourishing under her care. Lush strawberries and a variety of peppers and lettuces are among the offerings. Tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, beans and kiwi are on the way.
Everyone is welcome, but the board asks anyone who picks to spend 30 minutes tending the beds by weeding or watering.
A single mom to five children, Carroll-Hendricks graduated from TCC in May 2018 with an Associate of Applied Science in Horticulture and a Certificate in Landscape Design. She hopes to return to TCC to earn a general studies degree so she can transfer to Virginia Wesleyan College to study environmental science.
Carroll Hendricks says she learned beyond the classroom from Professor Kristina Bezanson, who is an active community volunteer, and this is her way of paying it forward.
“This is a great educational space allowing children and adults to learn about where food comes from, how it’s grown, how to grow it organically and harvest it,” she said.
While at TCC, Carroll-Hendricks was president of the Horticulture Club and the recipient of several scholarships, including one from Barnes & Noble.
Carroll-Hendricks spends her free time outdoors in her home garden with her children. They also enjoy riding bikes and family adventures to the community garden.