Hello garden friends,
It’s been a hot July! Because we have been sticking to a consistent watering schedule in Over-the-Rhine People’s Garden, things are still looking really good! Our community garden is full of fresh food and flowers and we are really starting to reap the benefits from bombing the garden with plants in the spring. Our pantries are full of a wide variety of greens, peppers, cucumbers, carrots, onions, and more is on the way.
Although gardening through a pandemic has its challenges, we’ve still been able to host a few workshops with youth who attend summer camp at Wesley Chapel Mission Center. The children learn how to plant and care for food, taste the food we grow, and different ways to earn money from a cut flower market garden. They also learned how to make and sell are boutonnieres, flower crowns and hand-tied bouquets. Just last week The Over-the-Rhine People’s Garden received an unexpected and exciting social media mention from…. Oprah’s Book Club! She highlighted the work of four great community gardens across the country. Here are the additional three she mentioned: Oko Farms in Brushwick, NY @okofarms, Brooklyn Grange Brooklyn Navy Yard in Brooklyn, NY @brooklyngrange, Fairview Community Garden in Denver, CO @DenverUrbanGardens.
Now for an update from Shannon who is working with our brand new Victory Garden program in Covington, Kentucky! We are only about a month into our brand new program but what a productive month it has been! Thanks to our partnership with Grow Appalachia and the Civic Garden Center of Cincinnati, in June we were able to build, distribute, and fill gardens for 15 families in Covington. We also matched all of these families with one of four mentors in our program. The process of finding and registering mentors and families, building beds, filling them with dirt, and distributing plants made for a very busy and exciting June! Now here we are deep into the growing season and getting to watch our gardens and our program take shape. While our beginner gardeners are carefully watching over their new plants, and our mentors are busy responding to questions and photos, I have been working on our systems for keeping track of all of this good growth and making sure our gardeners feel connected.
Feeling connected. That’s something that is certainly a challenge during this time of quarantine and social distancing. We specifically started the Victory Garden program this year in response to the pandemic and people’s desires to have more control over their food and to have something to do while stuck at home. But if this were any other year our mentors would have visited face to face with the beginners, we would have had a kick off party to get folks supplies, many of the classes would have been in-person where everyone could mix and mingle, and we would definitely be having a harvest parties to share produce and a meal. Ok, actually we still plan to try and make that last part happen, but the concern is still how to make everyone feel supported and feel like they’re part of this little Victory Garden community. So far our solutions look like:
- Making sure the mentors are checking in often. I encourage them to ask for pictures! You never know when an untrained eye may think everything is great, but a gardening expert can spot a problem from afar.
- Creating a newsletter that’s shared by email and mailed. The newsletter has helpful tips, class lists and links, program updates, and a section to highlight one of the participants in the program. We’re hoping this will add another layer of people getting to know each other.
- Next I think we’ll add a facebook page. A place where people can ask questions, share challenges, or brag about their harvest.
Here is our first example of a participant highlight from the newsletter:
Meet the Mentor: Brian Goessling – Brian’s passion for gardening has deep roots. After facilitating the Morning Glory Gardens in Mainstrasse (Covington) for four years, Brian was able to establish Redden Gardens at 10th and Scott with the goal of a permanent space for growing vegetables in community, at the site where his Grandpa Redden operated a medical practice for 57 years. Now in its third season, the garden has come a long way and will only grow from here.
While I’m thinking through these next steps though there’s still plenty to celebrate. We received our first example of a beginner garden growing something new, getting it to harvest, and feeding his family. Pictured here are Manuel’s collard greens.