In Wilmington, Ohio families are participating in a community garden project that aims to create self-sustainability.
The initiative, known as “Grow Food Grow Hope” (GFGH) began in spring 2009 through a team at Wilmington College. The project currently involves teaching some 20 area families how to grow their own vegetables and herbs.
“Families learn how to garden, but more importantly, they become self-sufficient and have the ability to control one thing in their lives—the ability to grow fresh food,” said Wilmington professor and department chair of Agriculture, Monte Anderson, one of the initiators of the project.
According to Anderson, GFGH was designed as a way to help local struggling families in a time of economic crisis. When Wilmington’s major employer, international shipping giant DHL, decided to relocate and left the community in May 2008, many residents were left jobless.
Anderson and others at the college wanted to help the community and began by putting the college’s land resources to use. Initially, they focused on the production of sweet corn, potatoes, and tomatoes to supplement local food pantries and ease the burden of family food costs.
As the situation in the community became more visible, the program evolved into the community garden format. “We quickly discovered many people did not know how to garden so we decided on teaching people how to garden in a small space,” Anderson explained.
The college provides all of the resources, including plots, seeds, and plants, free to the families, and participants attend weekly gardening meetings to get the most out of the program.
Shortly after the initial planting, the Corporation for National & Community Service gave Wilmington College a grant to hire nine AmeriCorps VISTA members to expand the project and increase its community outreach.
While VISTA members provide added assistance, the Clinton County Master Gardeners are the primary mentors to families who are just starting to develop their green thumbs.
“We seek to raise awareness of the benefits of local food production in backyard & community gardening,” said Jennifer Kreschner, coordinator for the community garden.
“Through increasing fresh food access, we make it easier for the neediest members of our community to eat well, and to lead by example in their home,” Kreshner added.
As these gardens grow, GFGH is hoping to grow as well—seeking to expand from 20 plots to possibly 40 or even 60 plots in 2010.