- Associated Press - Monday, June 30, 2014

NEWTON, Ill. (AP) - Cheyenne Goss’ roots are planted in Newton in more ways than one.

As part of a campaign to promote a healthy lifestyle, the 2013 Jasper County Fair Queen planted a community garden in May and already her crops are booming.

The recent high school graduate has made strides of her own, too, as she is set to attend Belmont University in August, despite her apprehension to move away from home. “I have lived right here in this house my whole life,” she said. “It’s definitely going to be hard to leave home.”

Just as Goss’ family and close friends have offered her tokens to remember them by, Goss said through the garden, she is leaving a piece of her behind for the community.

“We started it so people could eat healthy, and so people who cannot afford to buy food can still eat healthy and do it for free,” she said.

Just before Goss planted her garden, she learned the community had plans to prepare their own plot of land for private gardens.

“I talked to them, and we decided to do it together,” she said.

Goss maintains plots 8 and 16, where her younger sister has stuck a hand-painted sign that reads, “The Queen’s Garden.”

The past year has provided Goss with a handful of first-time experiences, including planting her own garden.

“My family has a garden, and I’ve helped, but I’ve never really done my own thing before,” she said.

Goss does have the help of her younger siblings for tasks, such as pulling weeds and watering crops, but their participation is bittersweet for Goss. Leaving her 7-year-old brother, she said, means leaving her best friend. “He tells me all the time, ‘You’re going to take me with you, and it’s going to be OK,’” she said. As much as leaving home will be a painful process for Goss, it will allow her to bring her healthy ways to Nashville, Tennessee.

“I work out a lot, and I run, and it makes me happier because I’m actually doing something,” she said. “I just thought that maybe if I promoted it, other people might start doing it.” The idea came to Goss while she competed for the title of the 2013 Jasper County Fair Queen, although she had doubts about entering the pageant to begin with.

“I’m girly, but I never pictured myself doing something like that,” she said.

It took learning that Goss’ dream university looked for applicants with extensive extracurricular experience to push her to enter.

“I went into it just doing it to get into Belmont but then when I won, it became something I’m definitely never going to forget,” she said.

In two weeks, the queen will hand her crown to this year’s winner. This could also mean handing down her garden, should the winner choose to take it over, although Goss plans to help with the upkeep when she returns from school in the summer.

Until then, the aspiring country singer has something special planned.

“I’m singing a farewell song, and it’s going to be emotional, because it’s so close to when I’m leaving home,” she said.

In August, Goss will drive to Nashville and begin the life she has worked hard on starting.

“Between the garden and being fair queen, and singing around here, hopefully I’ve made my mark,” she said.

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Source: Effingham Daily News, http://bit.ly/1iEfpNH

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Information from: Effingham Daily News, http://www.effinghamdailynews.com

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