The 2010 Youth Driven Community Service Garden was a huge success. Not only did Stratford’s Nature Club for Kids (SNCK) produce 1,000 lbs of fresh organic produce for donation to our local food bank, People In Need (PIN), but new education activities were initiated as well that experientially immersed the kids in the topic of sustainable agriculture.
The youth members of SNCK learned about sustainable agriculture by planning, designing and expanding our existing food bank organic garden to produce 33% more produce than the previous year. The club members learned how to design and grow an organic garden from seed to harvest, and all aspects of care and management in between.
Starting in March the children learned about the needs of People In Need (Delaware, Ohio’s local food bank), selected seed, planned the garden layout and then worked though out the growing season with the goal of growing fresh organic produce for PIN. Throughout monthly hands-on activities the children learned what “healthy, living soil” is, how plant diversity benefits the garden, how bed design can mitigate soil erosion and water runoff, they also gained practical knowledge of seasonal production throughout the year. We also created and maintained a three bin composting system in order to cycle nutrients back to our garden. We also witnessed the development of a garden – scale vermicompost bin.
There were 15 children in the Nature Club for Kids, 10 adult volunteers, 40 high school students and 40 middle school students all participated in the “Giving Garden” project 2010.
Before receiving this grant, I was involved in teaching sustainable agriculture by leading school groups (pre-K- 12) on tours of our organic farm and state nature preserve. I also led eight, week-long Farm Camp sessions in the summer, for youth ages 3 – 17.
• Educate the Nature Club for Kids and PIN participants about sustainable agriculture.
? Engage the Nature Club for Kids in the planning, maintenance, and harvesting of a community service garden.
? Utilize sustainable gardening practices to produce and provide fresh organic produce to People In Need (PIN).
? Partner with P.I.N. to increase the awareness and understanding of the value of locally grown organic foods produced in a sustainable manner.
? Offer educational workshops to PIN benefactors.
? Inspire community groups and individuals to give through other community garden projects.
Process: The steps taken to achieve the project goals are laid out in the following monthly timetable.
• I met with Kevin Crowley to discuss the needs of PIN participants.
• I worked with Christa Hein, SEC’s Education Director to create educational opportunities for PIN recipients; organic gardening class, urban and container gardening, vegetable variety seeding workshop, canning tomatoes/beans, Menu for the Future discussion course.
• I developed a brochure to communicate the educational opportunities with Pin recipients.
• I recruited and registered Nature Club for Kids members.
• Held Nature Club for Kids first meeting.
• The children learned about Stratford Ecological Center, People In Need and our partnership
• Selected seed
• Designed the garden layout.
• Focused on soil health
• Built a compost pile
• Added compost to the garden beds
• Tilled the soil
• Mulched our pathways
• Learned about the nutrient cycle
• Seed in the greenhouse, watered seedlings
• Focused on plant families and neighborhoods
• Companion planting
• Why plant diversity is important to an organic garden
• Transplanted seedlings into the garden based on beneficial plant grouping and garden design
• Watered the garden and the remaining plants in the greenhouse
• Harvested, weighed, logged, and delivered donated fresh organic produce.
• Focused on water and air
• Learned how plants in the garden use water and air
• Learned how soil quality effects the circulation of water/air to plants
• Learned what gardening practices work best to prevent soil erosion and water runoff
• Built wide raised beds with mulched depressed pathways and exposed soil surfaces
• Practiced intensive and companion planting techniques
• Harvested, weighed, logged, and delivered donated fresh organic produce.
• Focused on energy flow and the process of photosynthesis
• Learned about the web of life activity and all energy comes from the sun
• Watered, weeded, cultivated
• Harvested, weighed, logged, and delivered donated produce.
• Celebrated the Harvest!
? Watered, weeded, cultivated
? Harvested and donated produce to PIN.
• April Hoy, SARE Project Manager, Field Trip Coordinator, Stratford Ecological Center (SEC)
• Jeff Dickinson, Director /Farmer, SEC
• Christa Hein, Education Director, SEC
• Kevin Crowley, Executive Director, People In Need, Inc
• Ray Domire, Deputy Director, People In Need, Inc
• Glen Snow, Videographer, Snow Peak Productions
• David Hoy, Development Director, SEC
• Bob Harter, Retired ODNR Division of Wildlife
Out of the garden:
• The children donated close to 1,000 pounds of produce to the PIN.
• SEC strengthened relationships and partnerships with PIN and its client base, other volunteers in and around Delaware County, the families of these volunteers and other visitors to serve a greater need in our own community.
• SEC became a model for community involvement.
Practical educational experiences the children learned:
• The youth members of the Nature Club for Kids gained the practical knowledge of growing their own food.
• The children learned how to plan, design, build, plant, maintain and harvest a community service garden.
• The children learned how to work and cooperate as a group to accomplish a shared objective.
We hope to further connect the community with the land by involving PIN clients in food production. Though we offered several classes and handed out informational flyers, we did not have the participation we had hoped for from PIN clients. In its place, the project grew into the community of well-meaning volunteers that not only were they serving a greater need, they were also learning and feeling good about the work they were engaged in.
Through continuing dialogue with PIN Executive Director, Deputy Director and the Volunteer Coordinator, we have learned that the greater need is in the understanding of how to cook and eat the produce we are donating. Next year the garden project will provide recipe cards for meals with basic ingredients.
By developing a focus group of SEC volunteers, PIN volunteers and PIN clients we may better understand how our partnership will best meet the needs at hand. This project gave me and the children involved an appreciation for the growing needs of our community and how imperative PIN is to the people of Delaware County.
Last, but not least, we also gained an understanding and appreciation of how important locally produced food grown in a sustainable manner is to the health and vitality of our community.
a. Glen Snow, of Snow Peak Production, created a “Giving Garden” video that to date has been shared with a large number of people, including:
? SARE Farmers Forum, National Conference
? SEC Harvest Fair, Giving Garden presentation, PIN presentation – Ray Domire, Deputy Director Friends of Stratford reception, including community leaders and donors
? SEC Board of Directors, Development Board, SEC staff and volunteers
b. Thousands of visitors toured the community service garden on school field trips and by general public visits.
Our in-house evaluation of this program was achieved primarily by word-of-mouth, from:
• The Nature Club for Kids participants, their parent, siblings and friends
• The response from the local press in covering this project and the public upon learning about the project
• Organizers, volunteers and the participants and clients of PIN
• Other organizations with connections to PIN and other service providing organizations and agencies.
The Stratford Ecological Center appreciated the opportunity to showcase this project with a group of NCR/SARE and Ohio’s Sustainable Agriculture Team visitors this last summer. This provided an excellent opportunity for sharing and generating feedback regarding the current and future project’s challenges and opportunities.
April Hoy, the Project Leader, also enjoyed sharing SEC’s Giving Garden project with other NCR/SARE grant recipients at the Farmers Forum in Columbia, Missouri this last fall. This created invaluable opportunities to learn what other projects were doing while networking with other farmers and organizations at the Conference.
The Stratford Ecological Center was able to provide matching funds to this project in excess of 50% of the amount budgeted to and awarded from NCR/SARE for 2010.