Last March Mayor Tom Henry helped kick off the Food for the Fort gardening project at the Burmese Cultural Center, where thirty-four raised garden beds were set up and prepared to help resettled Burmese residents learn how to grow vegetables and herbs native to Burma in Indiana soil. In addition to the Burmese garden, the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department expanded the Salomon Farm garden to include organically grown produce for Community Harvest Food Bank. Another group of interested people in the Williams Woodland neighborhood came together and constructed raised beds and planted vegetables and herbs for the benefit of neighborhood residents.
While still in its beginning stages this effort is supported by a core group of committed individuals who collectively believe this grassroots effort can help build a stronger and more sustainable community and environment while providing residents with fresh healthy produce.
Community gardens are not new; this concept is not even new to Fort Wayne. The Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department has offered residents gardening opportunities near Foster Park along Bluffton Road in Waynedale for years. The Purdue Extension Office has consistently trained area residents through their Master Gardening Workshops and there are plenty of us who love the challenge offered by planting a garden each spring. Food for the Fort is different in that it proposes to use vacant private land for garden use. Urban land that has been vacated and stands empty, possibly growing unsightly weeds and often inviting vandalism when it could be the source of beauty and food for area residents.
The Food for the Fort community garden initiative is not just about growing food but about bringing the residents of participating neighborhoods together. Neighbors will work alongside each other for the common purpose of sharing in the bounty of fresh homegrown vegetables. Food for the Fort is an opportunity to engage citizens and organizations to provide healthy produce for themselves and their neighbors as a means of improving nutrition. It is an opportunity for citizens of all ages to meet new people and celebrate our similarities and our unique differences. As residents build stronger relationships, their natural inclination will be to watch out for each other, bringing the added benefit of a reduction in neighborhood crime.
Community gardens may best be described as a collective effort on behalf of a group of residents to grow food with the approval of the property owner or on property owned by a participating property owner for the benefit of neighborhood residents.
To encourage expansion of the Food for the Fort initiative Perry Ehresman of Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department, Ricky Kemery of the Purdue Extension Office, Jane Ford, Master Gardener and Cheri Becker, Park Board member and Executive Director of Leadership Fort Wayne coordinated a free community garden workshop for residents and interested neighborhood associations. The workshop covered an introduction to vegetable gardens, the City requirements for having a community garden and instructions on how to build raised beds. The workshop was free to everyone. The Food for the Fort Workshop was held on March 25, 2010 at the downtown Allen County Public Library.
Organic Seeds Donated to Community Gardening Project
Nature’s Crossroads, a new seed company located in Bloomington, Indiana, is donating organic seeds to the Food for the Fort: Community Gardening Project. The donated seeds include: tomatoes, peppers, basil, peas, melons, squash and kale.
“We love supporting community gardening programs, especially when they are helping to feed the hungry,” said general manager Maggie Sullivan. “We’re always excited to see communities that are supporting local food production.”
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