(Posted April 8, 2016)
By Christine Bryant, Staff Writer
West Jefferson residents may soon have a community garden that provides nutritious food, as well as a teaching opportunity.
Volunteers are working toward establishing the garden at Madison Garden Center, 9640 W. Broad St. The goal is to have everything in place by early May, said Marci Darlington with the Good Samaritan Food Pantry in West Jefferson.
To help the community garden reach its fullest potential, however, Darlington says organizers need the community’s help to win a grant that would provide additional funding and more opportunities for outreach.
Through April 18, the public can go to seedsofchangegrant.com and vote for the West Jefferson Good Samaritan Community Garden. The top 25 vote getters will move on to a round in which judges will review questions completed by the organizations. Two community gardens and will receive $20,000 each, 10 additional gardens will receive $10,000 grants, and a few gardens will receive $5,000 each. The public can vote once per day.
“This is a great opportunity for us to come together and help our pantry, its participants and our community at large,” Darlington said.
Though volunteers have put much thought into the new community garden, the idea stemmed from the goal of providing more operating funds for the Good Samaritan Food Pantry.
“We were contacted by Battelle (Memorial Institute) to write a proposal for a grant for the pantry,” Darlington said. “They were looking at a grant that would incorporate a teaching component.”
Food pantry representatives agreed on the idea of teaching kids to grow container gardens and make better choices through food and exercise, she said.
In the process of researching ideas for the Battelle grant, however, Darlington came upon the Seeds of Change Grant and thought having a garden in West Jefferson could help meet some of the community’s needs.
“One of the goals is to provide a garden to supplement the food that is given at the food pantry,” Darlington said.
Pantry Director Susan Maggard said produce from the community garden would be a much needed gift.
“We are able to get produce from the Mid Ohio Food Bank, but a lot of the time it is very close to being out of date,” she said. “What Marci is wanting to do is supply quality produce that is fresh out of the garden.”
Last season, the Madison Correctional Institution’s horticulture and landscape program, which Darlington’s brother, Doug Wells, oversees, helped to supply the pantry with produce. Wells has offered to help organizers set up the garden, along with Madison Garden Center owner Dave Spegal.
“(We) will also only grow produce that most people know how to cook and eat,” Maggard said. “We get lots of different items from the food bank that most people do not care for. There would also be less waste as it would be supplied as it ripens.”
Because winners of the Seeds of Change grant will not be announced until May 3, Darlington said organizers will put the garden together with or without the grant.
“Having the additional funding will allow us to do more outreach and enhance what efforts we begin with,” she said.