Friendships bloom in community garden
DetailsCreated on Thursday, 03 October 2013 01:59 Written by Julie Myers Hits: 321
Gardeners with plots in Kent State’s community garden are earning social, economic and health benefits. Community members started the organic garden, located near the old Allerton Apartment complex, in May and are looking to expand because of the garden’s success.
Melanie Knowles, sustainability manager at Kent State, started the garden with just 40 people. She’s now working with architecture classes to find the best relocation options. The plan is to move to somewhere bigger and more public.
Knowles hasn’t had a passive hand in the garden — she has a plot in it herself.
“I wanted to be personally involved and not just coordinating it,” Knowles said. “It’s a family thing. My husband and my son came with me, and we picked what we planted. We all planted it together.”
The community garden does just what its name implies and fosters a sense of community among the gardeners. They share planting tips and water each other’s plants when someone is out of town, Knowles said.
Some, like Jennifer Marks, put a real stake in the garden. Marks, a graduate student in the College of Public Health, actually incorporated the project into her degree.
She’s trying to set up an agreement to work with Campus Kitchen, a national organization with student volunteers that make and distribute meals to those in need.
“The idea that we’re kind of working on now is if we build some kind of community garden and we instituted some sort of educational component to it, and then working with Campus Kitchen would be to get the volunteers and get the students to actually grow, pick and then distribute out the food to the Kent State population that needs food,” Marks said. “We’re not just going to give you food. We’re going to teach you how to produce food and teach you about how to eat healthy food and what to do when you run into those issues and build a social support system around it that empowers you.”
With expansion, Marks hopes to keep the community garden but also add an educational research garden.
“There are a lot of components that go along with just growing the food and bringing people together,” Marks said. “So now you’re helping your neighbor; you’re learning from other people. It’s very much a peer-to-peer support system so that you’re not in this alone.”
Part of this new project will involve creating surveys, which Marks will start in January, to quantify hunger at Kent State, because helping students is her first goal, she said.
First, they have to prepare for and survive the winter. Knowles and Marks have a few ideas in mind to keep the plants safe and the gardens budding through the cold.
Knowles said they might re-till every plot, and Marks said they could use cold frames to try to keep things growing throughout the winter months. Container gardens are another option, meaning plants would be picked up and taken inside to continue growing.
“It’s been really fun. Even though we’ve had challenges with the garden, the folks who are there are troopers, and they just keep a smile on their faces,” Knowles said. “We just keep going.” For people interested in testing their green thumb, sign up for a plot in the garden by contacting Knowles at 330-672-3880.