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Free garden supply program begins Tuesday

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Those participating must meet income guidelines.

By Calen McKinney

Taylor County residents with budding green thumbs have a chance to get some free garden supplies.

Lake Cumberland Community Action Agency's annual garden program begins tomorrow, with applications taken for free $35 vouchers to be spent at local retailers.

Those interested can apply at the LCCAA office on North Jackson Street from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The vouchers will be given to residents meeting income guidelines. For a breakdown of the maximum monthly gross income figures, see a sidebar to this story.

Once all the 160 vouchers are awarded, the program will end. As of last week, the application period begins tomorrow and is expected to end Friday.

Last year, there were some vouchers left at the end of the application period. But this year, Janice Myers, Taylor County outreach specialist at LCCAA, doesn't want that to happen. She said she wants residents to take advantage of the program, and all her office has to offer them.

"It's basically people helping people," she said. "I'm here for the applicants."

The office's largest program is LIHEAP, which provides qualifying residents help to pay their winter heating bills. During last winter, Myers said, about 2,000 residents benefited. The LIHEAP program will begin again in October.

LCCAA employees and volunteers also offer case management services, particularly on how to budget money.

"And giving good advice on where to save money," Myers said.

Some might believe they are the only people struggling, she said, but that's nowhere near true.

"My check is just as limited as yours," she said.

Myers said the garden program is a popular one and many people have already asked when they can sign up to participate.

"Anyone can come in and apply," she said.

While applicants must live at 125 percent of the poverty level, Myers said, most of those who apply are eligible.

To apply for the voucher, residents must provide proof of income for the previous month, along with Social Security numbers for those living in the home and utility bills to show proof of current residence.

One voucher will be awarded for each household, no matter how many families live at the home. Only one person needs to apply for each household, Myers said, and that person must be age 18 or older.

Those who receive the vouchers can spend them at any of four approved vendors in Taylor County, including Burton Nursery and Garden, Jeffries Feed & Seed, Phillips Agri and Southern States.

Myers said the vouchers can be used to buy any variety of plants and seeds, one garden hoe and some fertilizer. No more than 50 pounds of fertilizer and 25 pounds of seed potatoes can be purchased.

"I encourage them to use every penny of it," she said.

Myers said those who want to participate in the program but might not have a spot to grow a garden at their home can still get a voucher and raise their crops in one of several community gardens. She said several churches offer such gardens. The only requirement is that LCCAA workers have access to it to see that it's being tended to properly.

Myers said several of those who have called about the program have participated before, but some have only just heard of it, even though it began more than five decades ago.

"Some calls are, 'I have never had a garden and thought I would give it a try.'"

Myers said those who participated in the program two years ago had little results because of an extended drought.

"[But] last year, it was unreal," she said.

Those who had bumper crops last year often brought the fruit of their labor to the LCCAA office to share with others.

The reasons people should participate in the garden program are simple, according to Myers.

"Saving on their grocery bills. The fresh vegetables. A healthy choice," she said. "Easy access, especially if it's out in the backyard."

Fruits and vegetables are sometimes the most expensive items at grocery stores, Myers said, and the LCCAA wants to help residents save money.

She said some people don't realize that the LCCAA is here to help residents, whether it's to start a garden or save on their heating bills. And it's important that they do, she said, because the office is funded by tax dollars.

"We're paying for it and a lot of people really don't know or understand how it works," she said.

For more information about the program, or any of the services LCCAA offers, call Myers at (270) 465-6554.

LCCAA Garden Program Income Guidelines

Household Size     Maximum Monthly Gross Income

1                        $1,197

2                        $1,616

3                        $2,034

4                        $2,453

5                        $2,872

6                        $3,291

7                        $3,709

8                        $4,128