Forty years ago in 1980 the Civic Garden Center started the Community Gardens program at the Over
The Rhine People’s Garden. Today that garden is still thriving and growing food for those in need and
providing an opportunity for the neighbors to grow food for themselves. Longevity matters. Stewardship
matters. The current garden coordinator, Christina Matthews, who some of you may know as the The
Flower Lady OTR established a relationship with Grow Appalachia in 2014. Grow Appalachia is a Strategic
Initiative of Berea College, established in 2009. They not only excel at supporting organizations that help
people grow food, but they do it with a constant eye on fiscal responsibility, efficiency and sustainability.
Stewardship matters. Relationships matter. Five years ago the Civic Garden Center actively worked to
formalize a network of Community Gardens. This rekindled a relationship with The Center for Great
Neighborhoods in Covington, whose Riddle-Yates Community Garden, the CGC helped construct in 1982.
Longevity matters. Relationships matter. Partnerships Matter. Two years ago Brian Goessling, engaged
with the Civic Garden Center through a conversation around a transition of his existing community
garden to its new iteration, the Redden Gardens. Brian is also a good friend to The Center for Great
Neighborhoods and their Community Development Director, Shannon Ratterman. Relationships Matter.
Partnerships Matter. It all matters.
These are the planted seeds. Let me describe how they bore fruit.
It became obvious this spring that people were racing to grow their own food. Seed companies were
selling out of product. Conversations about a new Victory Garden movement was not only in all of
gardening blogs and newsletters, but was also permeating into mainstream media sources. People are
anxious and concerned and they want to grow their own food. We did a shout out for interested parties
to join a conversation about what a Victory garden program could/should look like. Here is where it gets
fun! On that call, Shannon Ratterman mentioned that some of the longtime gardeners in the Riddle-
Yates Garden (located in Kentucky) along with Brian would volunteer to mentor community members in growing food. That
was the important key. It always truly starts, not with the idea, but identifying who will raise their hand.
A week later on a check in call with Grow Appalachia to see how Christina and the CGC were fairing,
David Cooke, the director and founder, mentioned that they were dipping into their reserve funds to
help more people. Remember that efficiency and stewardship they practice? Shannon’s comment
immediately came to mind. So here is the fruit. Covington, Kentucky now has 4 garden mentors working with 15
families to start growing food in their yards. The mentors are community garden managers, founder and
farmer of a local CSA business, an educator for an elementary after-school garden program, and a locally
renowned backyard garden expert.
The beginner gardeners definitely have the necessary support to succeed as a first year grower. We’re
looking forward to seeing this program (and the produce) continue to grow. Victory Gardens done right.
Community Gardens Coordinator
Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati