JMU Dining and HRHA Host Dinner in the Garden

After a brief rain shower cooled off the summer air, JMU Dining’s Chef James Routhier began his cooking demonstration: a summer meal that is cheap, easy, and uses vegetables and herbs growing right in the Kelley Street garden. On July 24, JMU Dining and HRHA hosted “Dinner in the Garden”, a chance to celebrate the Kelley Street garden and the people who have been involved throughout its development. A 2020 grant through JMU Dining and the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities made the garden possible. And after a community build day in April and a resident planting day in May, the garden is now in full swing. Central Shenandoah Valley Master Gardeners have been coming in multiple times per month to assist gardeners with weeding, staking plants, watering, harvesting, and more. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, zucchini, and more are growing beautifully. Saturday’s Dinner in the Garden helped celebrate this community effort.

After Chef James’ demonstration, Harrison Heights residents and families, HRHA staff and board members, and community supporters shared a summer meal catered by JMU Dining and based on Chef’s earlier demonstration. It was an incredible evening of good food and community building. Kelley Street gardener and 6-year old resident Justice even made the front page of the Daily News Record. 

A huge thank you to Chef James, Emily, Ben, Brent, and the entire JMU Dining team for sponsoring this beautiful evening, and for supporting the garden from the beginning. Thank you!

HRHA Resident Justice waters plants in his garden box – July 24 2021 Photo by Daniel Lin of the Daily News Record

Residents, HRHA staff and board members, and community supporters share dinner – July 24 2021

HRHA resident Ronnie and JMU Dining’s Executive Chef James swap culinary successes – July 24 2021

HRHA residents, staff, board members, and community members share dinner. July 24, 2021

HRHA’s Everett Brubaker and Director of JMU Dining Services Brent Beringer look over the garden. Master Gardener Karen speaks with HRHA resident and gardener Martin about his box (back). Photo by Emily Cozic – JMU Dining.

HRHA’s Kelley Street Garden Launches with Community Build Day

Drills and saws whirled Saturday April 17 as community members, garden partners, HRHA staff and residents began building the Kelley Street Garden. The effort began in 2019, with funding coming initially from the Voluntary Gas Tax Group and then through a 2020 grant from JMU Dining and the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities. After some delays due to COVID-19, the HRHA team reconnected with community partners late 2020 to launch the garden program this year.

Volunteers build garden boxes, fill boxes with soil, and help with the Kelley Street garden April 17 during community build day

Volunteers build beds, lay landscape fabric, and move soil for the Kelley Street Garden Build Day April 17, 2021

The Kelley Street garden holds 11 raised beds available to residents living in HRHA’s Harrison Heights. Families have already begun signing up and a few attended the work day to help build the garden. Jones Garden Inc helped coordinate, plan, and oversee the build day. Throughout the summer, Central Shenandoah Valley Master Gardeners will be coming in regularly to offer hands on education and workshops around planting, growing, harvesting, and more.

HRHA will be putting a fence around the garden in the next few weeks and we will have a grand opening and planting day mid-May. Stay tuned!

We are incredibly grateful to the community partners who helped make this garden possible. They have donated time, funding, labor, expertise, materials, and more:

The Voluntary Gas Tax Group
JMU Dining
The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities
The Central Shenandoah Valley Master Gardeners Association 
Jones Garden Inc. 
J P Remodel and Design
Lowes of Harrisonburg 
Black Bear Composting
Soil Health Technologies
Neff Lumber 
Designs by Landon Heavener 

And thanks to WHSV for coming out to cover the event! 

JMU Students Hannah and Jordan shovel soil.

Volunteers dump compost/soil mix into beds









Volunteers of Jones Garden Inc assemble a raised bed.

Volunteers assemble raised beds.









Rebecca and Naomi of Jones Garden Inc along with HRHA resident Cherie spread wood chips for garden paths.

The Kelley Street Garden.

300 Megawatt Hours of Solar Generation!

300 Megawatt Hours = The total solar energy generated since the HRHA solar array went online in 2013. This has led to the avoidance of over 900,000 lbs of CO2 emissions and has saved thousands on utility bills. HRHA installed solar on its J.R. Polly Lineweaver building (affordable housing for elderly and disabled adults) in 2013, partnering with Secure Futures Solar to install the 35KW array. HRHA was one of the FIRST Housing Authorities in the state to provide solar energy to residents in affordable housing. Since solar panels went up on Lineweaver 6 years ago, other housing authorities and housing non-profits across Virginia have explored opportunities in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and utility affordability for residents.

The Better Housing Coalition in Richmond was behind one of the first “net-zero” energy apartments for low-income individuals, meaning the units are designed to produce more energy than they consume. In Blacksburg, Virginia, Grissom Lane Apartments were also completed to net-zero standards. Grissom Lane Apartments provides affordable housing for low-income seniors. Solar panels and energy efficiency measures were key to these accomplishments.

Since the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) began incentivizing green building and design in affordable housing over 15 years ago, thousands of affordable housing units have been built to Earth Craft standards. When HRHA renovated all Franklin Heights apartments in 2008/2009, each apartment was renovated to Earth Craft standards.

Utilizing renewable energy and improving the energy efficiency of affordable housing is a win-win for all involved. If the resident is paying utilities, these measures can help add stability and assistance to monthly (and sometimes volatile) electricity prices. If a local non-profit or Housing Authority covers utilities, energy savings equates to savings on the taxpayer end, allowing housing funding to stretch farther. Not to mention the incredible environmental benefits.

You can view live stats on how our solar array is performing on the Secure Futures Portal.

Garden Pride & Local Veggies

HRHA resident Anita was diligently weeding her garden beds this week. The beautiful blooms signaling the height of summer (and the height of weed season). Anita, who has been in HRHA housing for two years, has cultivated the many flower varieties from seed. “I have people stop and look from the road! I also have helped other residents who are interested in growing as well, like flowers or tomatoes.” The beauty of the property is difficult to miss!

Over at Commerce Village, residents have also been working to grow not only flowers, but garden veggies as well. Garden beds not only provide a space for reflection, joy, and good work, but can help support an individual or family’s food budget.

During the summer, the Harrisonburg Farmers Market provides an abundant variety of fruits and vegetables. For individuals or families who qualify for SNAP (The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), the local farmer’s market (with support from community partners and the Virginia Fresh Match program) provides a matching program. SNAP participants are able to receive up to $20 of additional support to purchase local fruits and vegetables. You can learn more about and contribute to this program at the Harrisonburg Farmers Market Website.