A sustaining partnership: alumnus Sheldon Fleming and Georgia Perimeter College
"Brush the dirt off," Fleming
"That's what a carrot is supposed to taste like," Fleming
tells the group.
A self-taught gardener, Fleming is passionate about connecting individuals to nature and helping them understand how and where the food they eat grows-and why it's important to eat fresh food.
A longtime sustainability advocate and the founder of Wonderland Gardens in south DeKalb County, Fleming is a community partner with Georgia Perimeter's Atlanta Center for Civic Engagement & Service Learning.
also an alumnus of the college-known as DeKalb College
at the time he
took courses in landscaping and forestry at the Decatur and Clarkston campuses in the 1980s.
As part of his
partnership with GPC
served on a sustainability panel at GPC Newton's Daffodil Festival in March.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta Center
is seeking an AmeriCorps grant to fund student interns to work with Fleming
at Wonderland Gardens
"We want to develop and grow our relationship with Sheldon in an intentional, meaningful way for our students," says Dr. Joanne Chu, director of GPC's Southeastern Institute for Sustainability, which is part of the Atlanta Center.
The vegetables grown at this site are used in nutrition courses at Porter Sanford Performing Arts Center, where Fleming
co-teaches a healthy eating class.
Sheldon Fleming poses for photo holding gardening tool.
"Last year, we used more than 600 bulbs of garlic in our cooking.
So we knew we needed to plant at least that much this year," he
love for gardening from the ground up-his first jobs were mowing neighbors' yards and helping his
father operate a nursery.
22-year-old sister, Kelly, was murdered in 1987, gardening became both salvation and salve for him-and the impetus to start Wonderland Gardens
The nonprofit garden is located on county-owned property on the site of the old Mathis Dairy on Rainbow Road.
Over the years, Fleming
has carved both an educational garden and a quiet space in the fields where cows once grazed.
invites children and adults to share his
gardening passion and helps them reconnect with the earth through service projects and classes.
In the past 15 years, more than 300,000 volunteer hours have been logged at the garden.
The garden also has become a testament to sustainability: Fleming uses shredded tires for walkways, reclaimed concrete for retention walls and recycled plastic in the raised beds for flowers and vegetables.
"I wasn't formally trained to do public gardens," says Fleming