SIDNEY — A garden which began as a dream continues to grow with new goals for the future on the horizon. An open hosue was held Saturday, Aug. 27, at the Community Garden to show the public how the program has grown so far and to share the vision for its future.
The garden started as a dream from Jeff McAtee, special programs director. He had visited another food pantry much like Agape, on whose grounds a community garden is found. While there, he viewed the gardens, and the seed was planted.
Upon returning to Sidney, McAtee spent time working out the logistics. His first project was to have four raised beds constructed. This summer, over forty beds are available. This is the first year beds were rented out for people to grow their own produce. Eight beds were rented, and they hope to have that increase next year. There are also higher beds available for those that may have a special need.
“We hope people will come and walk through the garden and be inspired to either rent a bed next year or to come out and help,” said Michelle Stephenson, one of the gardeners on site to help people.
Recently a building was erected on the property. This was made possible by a grant from Cargill. By next spring, it is planned that the building will be equipped to use as a teaching center. Master Gardener Conelia Dixon and Stephenson hope to offer classes on how to better grow plants. In addition, they plan to offer cooking classes on how to prepare foods using the crops that have been grown.
“We want to help people help themselves,” said Stephenson, “Once they see that they can do it, it will give them more confidence, and they will try more new things.”
The goal is to help the community learn to reconnect with nature and make healthier choices. McAtee is also hoping that people will learn how to care for themselves should a disaster occur.
“We don’t teach people how to take care of themselves anymore like we used to. Somebody’s got to do it. If we can teach someone to grow a tomato in their backyard to help take care of their family, that’s a good deal. Since Katrina, I’ve been really interested in teaching people to survive in a disaster. We’ll talk about that in classes, too,” said McAtee.
To this end, McAtee says they have already begun to clear a path to establish an Edible Trail. Once the trail is cleared, plants that are indigenous to Ohio will be planted along the way. In this way it will be possible to show people which plants are edible. They will bring these plants back to the classroom and learn to prepare them. There will also be placards placed along the path so people can take a self-guided tour.
The gardeners hope to show people how to diminish their carbon footprint. There are no pesticides or chemical fertilizers used in the garden. Some farmers have donated natural fertilizer and there is a compost pile on the property. The gardens are all organic.
“We will use garlic spray or a citronella type spray. We just try to do maintenance along the way. We have had some trouble with animals. That’s why you see garden netting around some of the beds. Some of the things sticking up from the ground have blood meal inside them. Deer don’t like the smell of it,” said Stephenson.
It is hoped that, through grants and donations, solar panels will be added to the building to power the electricity needed, and an irrigation system that uses the rainwater will complete the garden. It is hoped that this will continue on to Agape itself and that it will one day be solar powered.
Agape plans, through these steps, to show that urban sustainability is more than a dream and that a Zero Waste place of work is possible. Agape plans to reach this goal by 2020.