Friday, July 29, 2011

By The Time You See This Black Spot, It is Too Late to Fix This Year

Guess what? I am not the world's best gardener. Even your hardworking Garden Manager sometimes fails to take proactive measures to protect the fruits of my considerable labor. And even though I generally try to be Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm on this site, this article relates the dirty secret of my tomato crop this year: Blossom End Rot (the notorious BER which surfaces just as you've gotten excited about harvesting the pefect red fruit). I've been asked about it before by friends, family and SACG Gardener for years, but have never suffered from it myself except when growing roma tomatoes in clay pots on the south side of my house. This year, I've noticed BER on quite a few of my plants at the SACG and at home and so feel the need to share my pain with the world.

As most of you know, BER is caused by calcium deficiency. By the time you see the tell-tale black spots on the bottom of your tomatoes, however, it is too late to save them by throwing egg shells or bone meal at the plant roots. Foliar sprays I am reliably informed will not help, either. You can only work to improve the conditions going forward (generally next year). On the positive side, it is not a virus and is not contagious. Just because your determinate tomatoes may be lost, does not mean that it will spread to your indeterminate tomatoes if you timely address the adverse conditions.

It is important to note that you cannot always blame your compost for not containing enough egg shells. Sometimes, the plants cannot take up calcium because the pH is too high. After doing some research, I found the explanation for my problem this year on the Gardener's Supply Company website. Does this sound familiar to you?

Blossom-end rot is most common when the growing season starts out wet and then
becomes dry when fruit is setting. Damage first appears when fruits are approximately half their full size. The water-soaked areas enlarge and turn dark
brown and leathery. These areas will eventually begin to rot, so the fruit should be picked and discarded. Several factors can limit a plant's ability to absorb enough calcium for proper development. These include: fluctuations in soil moisture (too wet or too dry), an excess of nitrogen in the soil, root damage due to cultivation, soil pH that's either too high or too low, cold soil and soil high in salts.

The only way to avoid BER is to take steps before it appears. Add Epsom salts or bone meal to the soil when planting and avoid adding excess nitrogen or excess moisture. Aim for soil pH of 6.5 (which means not adding lime where your pH is above this level like it is at the SACG). Control moisture fluctuations with mulch (like straw).

At the SACG, we have a sufficient amount of calcium in our soil, but not in surplus amounts. We also have an abundance of nitrogen and most of us mulch our tomato plants with straw. However, like everyone else, we had a freakish amount of rain in the early growing season and then the rain stopped unexpectedly in July while the tomatoes were setting fruit. These are the classic conditions for BER. I water my tomatoes generously once or twice each week. However, with our extreme heat this month, I apparently was not watering all of my plants enough. Sigh.

Ohio State's Extension's site has the ultimate scientific article about BER, if you want to read something with a little more gravitas that I ever impart here.

In the meantime, if you find BER on your tomatoes, be prepared to toss them (somewhere other than the compost pile if you want to avoid volunteer tomatoes next year). I generally toss tomatoes as soon as I see BER on green tomatoes so that the plant can put its energy into ripening and enlarging the good tomatoes left on the plant. However, I'm not proud. I often just cut out the spot (even if it has ruined the bottom half of the tomato) and eat the rest. The good half of the tomato is quite edible. I'm crossing my fingers that I have some tomatoes to harvest tomorrow because I would like to start canning sometime this summer . . . .

Monday, July 25, 2011

Our Soil Is Getting Better All the Time

As faithful readers may recall, we highly recommend soil testing at the SACG. We tested our soil when we started in 2009, in no small part to avoid lead and other toxic pollutants from finding their way into our produce from the soil. (Rumor has it that lead can get into the soil when buildings with old lead paint are demolished on the site and the construction debris is left behind – like it was at the SACG). Soil testing also determines whether the soil has the correct pH to grow vegetables and fruits. Since we started in 2009, we have greatly improved our soil with approximately 4 inches of compost and soil acidifier (i.e., peat moss and aluminum sulfate). This time, we had our soil tested for $15 by CLC Labs in Westerville (which, unlike the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, does not test for lead for the same low price).

By way of comparison, in 2009, our soil was very alkaline (i.e., 7.7 pH). In 2011, we now have a neutral pH of 7.0 from adding lots of compost (from Kurtz Brothers and Com-Til Plus), peat moss and soil acidifier. Ideally, I’m aiming for a pH of 6.8.

Our soil still is over-the-top in nutrients. We are in surplus for Phosphorus, Potassium and Magnesium. We had 200+ pounds per acre (PPA) for Phosphorus, 939 PPA for Potassium and 969 PPA for Magnesium. We are "high" for the Base Saturation Percentage for Potassium (6.6) and Magnesium (22). We are “medium” for Calcium (5156) and for the Base Saturation Percentage for Calcium (71). Finally, we were rated “high” for fertilizer maintenance level with nitrogen rates of 3.0 to 4.0. In other words, if we feel the need to add any more fertilizer, it should just be something rated 4-0-0. If you’ve seen our garden, however, you know that we are not hurting for nitrogen.

The SACG has greatly benefitted from great soil, a great location for sun exposure (i.e., no buildings to our immediate east or west) and a slight incline (for good drainage). Of course, we have at least a ten-foot barrier between the garden and any pavement to prevent run-off into the stormwater sewers which empty into Alum Creek.

Monday, July 18, 2011

It’s All About the Soil

On Friday, urban farming legend Will Allen visited Franklin Park Conservatory to support a fundraiser for Ameena Salahuddin, who is starting the Stiletto Gardener, the latest of the sixteen Regional Outreach Training Centers of Growing Power. The evening started with a small reception in the Palm House. I was able to attend the reception courtesy of Seeds of Significance (after promising to blog about the event). There were light appetizers (with particularly memorable corn salsa) and the conversation centered on the content of the biodegradable plates. I was delighted to run into Trae from the Bexley Community Garden; Trae has attended a number of seminars at the SACG and has also benefitted from the generosity and assistance of Seeds of Significance in her own gardening endeavors. We also ran into Kojo from the New Harvest Community Garden in the New Linden neighborhood. The Local Matters folks were also out in force. Later, Peggy from HHCG asked for help to subsidize the admission of another community gardener, but again, Seeds of Significance stepped in and paid for her ticket. The Stiletto Gardener wore her trademark stiletto heels and Allen wore his trademark cutoff sweatshirt.

I have included a picture of Bill Dawson with Mr. Allen. Their day began extra early with appearances and interviews throughout the WTTE Good Morning Columbus show on Fox 28. Their weekend continued working at the Stiletto Gardener building hoop houses, compost bins and aquaponic systems on Saturday and Sunday.

Allen narrated a program of over 650 slides over the next 90 minutes. Growing up on a farm in Virginia, he swore that he would never return to farming. Instead, he played basketball for the Miami Hurricanes and later in Europe. While working for Proctor & Gamble in Wisconsin, he bought in 1993 the last working farm in Milwaukee near an old Army base. This then became the center of his life.

It's all about the soil. To break even in agriculture, the farm needed to produce an enormous amount of food in a small space. The only way to do that is with great soil. Because much of the soil in urban areas is polluted and filled with construction debris, it is necessary to create your own. Therefore, early on Allen began composting everything and anything, particularly unused and unsold produce from wholesalers and grocery stores, as well as the byproducts of beer producers, leaves and wood chips. As Growing Power expanded to support gardening projects at schools, nursing homes, companies, rooftops, urban neighborhoods, etc. and to build more than 22 new greenhouses, he bypassed the time consuming task of digging out construction debris (like we did at the SACG) and destroying dilapidated parking lots. Instead, he delivers thousands of pounds of compost and builds the garden from the ground up. He showed slides of creating extensive gardening space on top of parking lots by simply putting down six inches of compost on top of the concrete.

It takes 3-8 months to create compost from waste (depending on whether and how often the compost is turned during the decomposition process). At some GP facilities, the compost is grown in small 4x4 bins, but in others it is created from dumping mountains of food (still in the cardboard boxes) and other waste and letting them decompose slowly. For instance, GP now has a four-acre composting site at the nearby sewage plant in a suburb which has mountains and mountains of compost being grown. GP even collects food waste from Wal-Mart to support its efforts. All told, GP composts 180,000 pounds of food waste each week (or 10M pounds/year).

Allen said that he figured that he needed to sell $5 of produce per square foot from his farm (or $200,000/acre). GP does this by selling food to public schools and through Sysco Systems and through its own retail outlets. They use all available space. In dark places, they grow mushrooms where other plants will not grow. They deliver food to stores within 36 hours of harvest, instead of the two weeks which is common in the industry. Fresh food tastes better.

Vermicompost. Growing Power is also famous for promoting vermicomposting, i.e., fertilizer made from worm poop. He loves his tens of thousands of worms, which he claims can live for 20 years. He picks up hundreds of them with his bare hands. The worms are active year long by living in the warm compost piles. GP sells worm fertilizer for $4/pound retail.

Acquaponics. Growing Power is also famous for growing fish, particularly tilapia and perch, which he can sell in restaurants, stores and markets. He started with a three-barrel system: He would grow 50 pounds of fish in one barrel, use one barrel as a filtration device and the other barrel had weeds (which would feed the fish). His system is much more sophisticated now and has evolved into a vertical system in order to conserve space. The fish waste feed the plants and the plants feed the fish and the water is purified by running through soil. The whole greenhouse system is heated year round with solar energy and with the heated water which raises the tilapia.

Another one of his common systems is to take a field; dig two trenches (one for perch and one for tilapia) and put a hoop house over it. He then piles compost around the outsides of the hoop house (which keeps the wind out) and in each of the corners. The heat from the compost keeps the temperature inside the hoop house warm enough to grow fish and greens. Each of these types of hoop houses cost $5,000 to build and raise 20,000 fish/year.

Like the SACG, GP does its best to capture all storm water runoff. The water used to raise the fish and run the greenhouses is captured off the roofs of GP's buildings.

Education. Growing Power also has an extensive youth education system. After spending a morning with hand-on gardening tasks, the kids then practice their writing composition skills by writing essays and stories about their experience. GP also teaches them how to preserve food (i.e., canning) and how to cook nutritious dinners.

Other Agriculture. GP also works with Heifer International and raises alpine goats and chickens. He also raises bees and collects 100 pounds of honey/hive each year, which is sold to support their program.

GP has supported gardening projects in Chicago, Kenya, Ukraine and London.

Sustainability. All staff salaries are paid through earned income (from selling honey, compost, food, etc.). Approximately half of its budget is derived from earned income, not grants.

GP has established relationships with all kinds of entities. For instance, with Kohl's, GP installed urban gardeners at the company HQ. GP also collects the food waste from their cafeterias to support the composting operations and feeds the kids in the Kohl's company daycare program with fresh produce. In turn, Kohl's employees volunteer at GP.

Allen extorted attendees to run non-profits more like businesses in order to sustain them for the long-term.

He was also quite complimentary of the Mayor of Cleveland for aiming to create a sustainable agricultural system in the City of Cleveland by 2019. Too few cities can feed their population in this day and age.

The whole experience was quite fascinating for a geek like me. The next day, Betty and I discussed the feasibility of creating a hoop house at the SACG to grown food year round. Betty is all for it, but we had to laugh at the thought of trumping through several feet of snow to get to the hoop house and harvest kaleJ When I spoke later with Beth about this idea, we both agreed that we needed a vacation each winter. . . . . . I might try this in my backyard first before investing in a hoop house for the SACG . . . . .

Good luck Ameenah.

Monday, July 11, 2011

July Recap of FPC Hub Garden Meeting

Last December, I received an email that Franklin Park Conservatory's Growing to Green Program was planning to maximize its resources by focusing on helping twelve community gardens in Central Ohio. These were referred to as "hub gardens," which would serve as hubs to help nearby community gardens with resources and training, etc. There was some thought that the program would be formalized in 2012 and FPC referred to this as the 12 x 2012 initiative. I missed the first meeting in December, so have been unclear about a lot of the details. In selecting these hub gardens, FPC looked both geographically and at how the hub gardens are addressing these five key mission areas: (i) Celebration of culture; (ii) Youth participation and education; (iii) Job training; (iv) Food production and feeding the hungry; and (v) Nutrition programming. It is clear that the SACG is in very good company because many of the other gardens have won "community garden of the year" sometime in the past. They include Four Seasons City Farms, Franklinton Community Garden, Highland-Hilltop Community Garden, Ganz Road Community Garden, St. Vincent de Paul Pantry Garden (on Livingston Avenue), Epworth Methodist Church Community Garden (on Karl Road), Weinland Park Garden (run by the Godman Guild), Upper Arlington Lutheran Church Community Garden (on Mill Run), Franklin County Juvenile Court Garden, New Harvest Café/Alma Vera Garden in Linden and the Native American Indian Center Community Garden.

Last Thursday, representatives from ten of the hub gardens met at the Caretaker's Cottage at FPC. Bill, Barb and their squeaky new Intern had a number of announcements for us:

  1. We need to select which of the five mission areas best describes us. We may be involved in several or all of the mission areas, but we need to describe which one is our primary focus. The intern handed out forms for us to complete and fax back to her.

  2. The current edition of Edible Columbus has two feature articles on community gardening. One focused on Patrick Kaufman and the Franklinton Community Garden and the other discussed the Somali immigrant group gardening on Ganz Road. Bill has been asked to submit articles and ideas for future editions and hopes to gain similar attention for our community gardens.

  3. Will Allen is coming the weekend of July 15-17, 2011. FPC is attempting to help Stilletto Gardener defray some of the cost of bringing Mr. Allen to Columbus by organizing a hasty fundraiser at the FPC. Due to the short amount of advance notice, it has been difficult to sufficiently publicize the event and Bill asked us each to help. Stiletto Gardener will be the local affiliate for Growing Power. Mr. Allen will be coming back to help Stiletto Gardener and hopefully we can have more lead time to plan an event.

  4. Barb was looking for feedback on the gardening seminars she held at some of the gardens. She made Patrick admit that he had learned somethingJ Many folks in Franklinton do not have internet access and so were not particularly interested in lists of good gardening websites, but we at the SACG find this information useful. I encouraged FPC to hold more scavenger hunts for kids like we had last year.

  5. Barb announced the pilot jobs program that FPC will be holding with COWIC and passed out postcards advertising the program.

  6. Bill encouraged us to contact neighborhood associations to get on any local home and garden tours as a way of promoting ourselves within a community.

  7. Nomination forms will soon be available for the annual Growing to Green Awards. Gardens may nominate themselves. There will be a new award category this year for sustainability. The nomination forms will be due July 29, 2011 – which is much earlier than in years past. The Growing to Green awards ceremony will be on August 25, 2011 on the lawn in the community garden campus at FPC.

  8. In connection with the FPC's next exhibit, "Hungry Planet: Local Food/Local View," FPC will be holding three farm market days on the following Sunday afternoons from noon until 4:00 p.m.: August 28, September 25 and October 23, 2011. Hub gardens may have a free booth at the Farm Market – along side regular farmers -- in order to sell produce to raise money for their community gardens. Gardens need not participate in all three market days. We need to complete a form and return it to FPC if we want to participate.

  9. The FPC Women's Board will be holding its annual gardening tour in a few weeks. Growing Hearts and Hands Community Garden will again be on their agenda as will Franklinton Community Garden.

  10. The Scotts Miracle-Gro community garden application deadline has been moved up a few months to July 15, 2011. With any luck, there will be a grant application available every six months. This lead to a discussion about how the city-county-foundation grant process worked out the last year. Apparently, there was a lot of miscommunication about who was being awarded what and why. One community garden received a letter indicating that they would be receiving a cash award and then a month later was told that this had been a mistake and they would only be receiving product instead.

  11. Beth Urban, the new Executive Director of the American Community Garden Association, stopped by to introduce herself.
Bill then finally let us break to have some pizza from Anthony's in Bexley (which had been delivered before the meeting startedJ) .

There were a few other announcements from various gardens:

  • Weinland Park has arranged for the OSU Extension Office at the Wooster Campus to come to its garden on July 23 to provide Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Going to Market Training advocated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. My notes seem to indicate something else on July 19, but my notes are far too cryptic on this point.

  • Peggy wanted everyone to know that the UWCO Neighborhood Partnership grant applications would be due in October. Contact Sharon Ware at UWCO for more information.

  • Franklinton Gardens is having an Art Mural Project with live music and food vendors on July 16 and 23 from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.

  • Someone passed out cards for Leslie Strader, the City's Assistant Environmental Steward (i.e., the Mayor's point person for community gardens). She can be reached at 90 West Broad Street, 2nd Floor and at 645-7673 and at

  • Epworth Methodist Church asked for information about someone who could volunteer to plow an extra field they have near their church. They could double their food production for food pantries if only someone would plow the field. Marge suggested that they check Craig's List.
Our substantive presentation for the evening was by Todd Marti from the Upper Arlington Lutheran Church. This Garden was started by Kelly Hern in 2009 and raised and donated approximately 1700 pounds of produce that year. Members from the UA Lutheran Church volunteer to plant, weed, water and harvest the produce. They are motivated by the Gospel's admonition to feed the hungry and to make the most of their talents and resources. Last year, they raised and donated approximately 8,000 pounds. Todd explained that each harvester is responsible for weighing the produce (at a convenient scale located at the garden), driving the produce to the recipient organization reporting back to the leaders, who track the information by type of vegetable, weight, date and recipient. By tracking this information on an Excel worksheet, they can create charts which show the percentage of donations to Lutheran Social Services food pantry, Faith Mission, the UALC Hilltop Ministry and the UALC summer lunch program. It helps with grant applications and to recruit volunteers to quantify the amount of produce donated and to determine which crops are more efficient and productive to raise. Having a good scale (i.e., weighing more than 10 pounds at a time) in a safe location is important. It also requires a lot of discipline. The information is shared informally with the congregation.

One of the gardeners mentioned a funny anecdote, which sent me to my reference books when I got home. Apparently, a group of what we'll call gypsies stopped by their garden and volunteered to do weeding -- a thankless task even without our recent spate of oppressive heat. All they wanted in return was to keep a pile of weed: common purslane. Apparently, it is the known to contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. there is a non-weed variety that is actually popular in Europe and eaten as a salad green. Who knew?! (There is some growing in my back yard . . . . . )

Sunday, July 10, 2011

It’s Not Too Late to Start Growing Vegetables

It's mid-July and my bush beans are looking the worse for wear and my lettuce won't last more than a couple more hours in this heat. This brought me back to our FPC workshop last August on extending the growing season. It's not too late to start beans or carrots. In a few weeks, we can start a second crop of turnips, spinach, lettuce, bok choy, chard and maybe cilantro. Some crops actually grow better in the fall than in the Spring.

While researching this, I found a couple of good articles on seed company websites: Johnny's and Seeds of Change. However, one of the bests sites is a publication published by the Iowa Extension office which shows the time to plant, let grow and harvest vegetables between March and November.

I also ran over to the SACG (in this oppressive heat) to see what seeds we had left in the shed. I separated the flowers from the vegetables. We have lots of lettuce seeds left. I also found some bok choy and tom thumb lettuce (both of which I've been bumming off Charlie for the last month. About time I grew my own). Over the last two days, I have discovered that the big box stores have stopped selling seeds, but not the local nurseries, like DeMonye's, Oakland Nursery and Dill's. (They are 40% off at DeMonye's, which also has some seedlings (particularly greens and tomatoes) for 50% off). So, I picked up some turnip, winter squash and okra.

The graphic is from The Dispatch. Click on it to enlarge it to make it more readable).

Some tips:

  1. Plant fall seeds a little deeper than you do in the Spring. The soil is cooler the deeper you plant and some seeds prefer slightly cooler soil temperatures.

  2. Think about watering the ground where you will be planting the night before.

  3. Water the row thoroughly after planting since the ground will dry out quickly in this heat and you need moisture to germinate the seeds. (For that matter, some seeds will benefit from soaking them in water overnight before you plant them).

  4. For carrots, consider putting a board over where you have planted and check it every day or so. This will help keep the soil damp and deter weeds. Remove the board when the seedlings begin to emerge.

If we built some cold frames or hoop houses, we could extend our growing season until Christmas. As it is, we usually have food growing in the SACG until at least Thanksgiving.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Will Allen Will Be In Columbus July 15-17, 2011

When it comes to the urban agriculture movement, few individuals are as important or as influential as Will Allen, the founder and president of the Growing Power non-profit in Milwaukee and Chicago. Last year, Time magazine named him as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. He won a $500,000 McArthur Foundation genius grant and a $400,000 job-creation grant from the Kellogg Foundation in 2008, won a $100,000 from the Ford Foundation in 2005, is a member of Bill Clinton’s Global Initiative and is an advisor to First Lady Michelle Obama.

Allen was not always famous. His parents were sharecroppers in South Carolina and he grew up on a small farm in Maryland. However, he then became a professional basketball player in Florida and Europe and then as a district manager for KFC and sales executive with Proctor & Gamble. However, while playing basketball and working in the corporate world, he always had a small plot to grow food. Then, in 1993 he suddenly bought a tiny farm and greenhouse in Milwaukee to teach urban kids how to grow food and the rest, they say, is history. A few years later, he partnered with Heifer International to create sustainable agricultural systems in urban centers like Heifer has created in third-world countries. Allen and 40 farmhands now grow 160 different crops in solar-powered greenhouses and a 40-acre farm. As reported by the The New York Times three years ago:

His Growing Power organization has six greenhouses and eight hoop houses for
greens, herbs and vegetables; pens for goats, ducks and turkeys; a chicken coop and beehives; and a system for raising tilapia and perch. There’s an advanced composting operation — a virtual worm farm — and a lab that is working on ways to turn food waste into fertilizer and methane gas for energy.

With a staff of about three dozen full-time workers and 2,000 residents pitching in as
volunteers, his operation raises about $500,000 worth of affordable produce, meat and fish for one of what he calls the “food deserts” of American cities, where the only access to food is corner grocery stories filled with beer, cigarettes and processed foods.

Allen sells food both in the inner cities and to upscale restaurants and sells to landscapers and suburbanites the massive amounts of compost he generates from wood chips and food waste donated by groceries and restaurants. He promotes creating good soil from food and fish waste and vermicasting – i.e., worm poop.

Allen also holds workshops in Milwaukee and at affiliates throughout the United States to spread the gospel of sustainable urban agriculture. This is what brings him to Columbus next weekend. Stiletto Gardener is the latest affiliate of Allen’s Growing Power and has paid to bring him to Columbus next weekend and to visit at least annually for the next five years. To help defray the cost of Stiletto Gardener bringing Mr. Allen to Columbus, Franklin Park Conservatory has arranged for a private reception, keynote address and two-day hands-on workshop.

On Friday, July 15, there will be a keynote address by Allen (who I am reliably informed can talk for hours and hours if left to his own devices) about urban agriculture at 6:00 p.m. Tickets are $35 each and are available to the public. Before the address, a reception will be held at the FPC at 5:00 p.m.. Limited to 50 people, the tickets are $50 each and include the cost of the keynote address.

From 8:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, July 16 and 17, Allen will lead a two-day hands-on workshop on building a hoop house, aquaponics (raising food in water), composting, vermicomposting (with worms) and year-round food production. You will learn by actually helping to do all of these things. The cost will be $170 and will include breakfast and lunch each day and admission to the keynote address.

This event is being sponsored by FPC, Mid-Ohio Food Bank, Local Matters, Edible Columbus, Hounds in the Kitchen, Slow Food Columbus and OEFFA. Tickets can be purchased at For more information, contact or 614-859-4105.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Franklin County Pilot Green Corps Jobs Program is Now Seeking Applicants


Are you dissatisfied with your career opportunities in this economy? Are you short on cash? Do you like working outside? Do you like working with your hands? Then maybe a career in the green economy (i.e., in the environmental, horticultural, landscaping and agricultural industry) is for you.

Franklin County is partnering with COWIC’s Youth Department and Franklin Park Conservatory to offer a pilot (i.e., test) program to train disadvantaged young adults (18-21 years old) to obtain certification in a green job. If you successfully complete the program, you will receive Ohio Department of Agriculture Commercial Applicator and First Aid Certifications to use in any future job or to start your own business. The Program also hopes to place in a paying job each participant who successfully completes the program.

Green Corps participants will be paid for 40 weeks to attend training for 3 hours per day (from 9 a.m. until noon)/5 days per week (i.e., 15 hours each week) from Franklin Park Conservatory in a number of areas, including:
• Landscape and Garden Maintenance;
• Greenhouse Production
• Interior Plant Care
• Community Gardening
• Composting
• Plant Identification
• Business Ownership
• Constructing Garden Hardscapes
• Seed propogation and cutting
• Tree pruning

In order to qualify for the Green Corps Jobs Program, candidates must meet the following requirements:

• Have an interest in the green industry, horticulture or landscaping;
• Must meet certain income requirements (i.e., qualify for WIA, TANF or similar program); and
• Live in Franklin County.

The Program will begin as soon as 10-12 candidates are signed up. This could happen anytime. If you are interested or have any questions, call COWIC Youth Career Consultant Lawrence Jackson at 614-559-5075 as soon as possible.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Plant a Row to Feed the Hungry By Donating Garden Produce to Food Pantries

As you have read here in 2009 and 2010, there are a number of food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters in Columbus which accept fresh garden produce to feed their clients. In fact, it is healthier for their clients to receive fresh produce because canned food has a lot of salt and other preservatives. In addition, you can receive a tax deduction for your donation – which will be handy next April. A recent national report showed that 1/4 American families went hungry for at least one meal in 2010 and that Columbus ranked 31st in the nation.

Lutheran Social Services Food Pantry. They suggest that you go to the front door of 1460 South Champion Avenue to drop off the produce. (There’s also a dock at the side of the building where there will be less chance that you’ll be confused as a client and asked to wait in line by the constantly revolving volunteers who staff the pantry. I always go in the side door). They have refrigerators available to store any excess.
Hours: Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. and Saturdays 1-3pm. I also do not recommend stopping by during the lunch hour because the paid staff may be gone and you will be told to wait until they return or to come back later for a receipt.
Will take anything.
Sorting: Preferably sorted, but is not required. Is a good idea to weigh the produce beforehand if you want a receipt.
Provides tax receipts. Please have it weighed and have the donor’s name and address available in writing. If they run out of receipts (which has not happened yet this year), you can have them sign your own. In that case, it's quicker if you bring two copies of your pre-prepared receipt so that they can keep one and you can take one. However, they have a copier there. They also like you to sign their donation book.
For more information: Call Manager Dave Drom or Assistant Manager Wayne at 443-5130. [Editor's Note: NBC4 recently reported that this pantry served approximately 8000 families in July 2011].

Faith Mission. Donations can be made at two locations.
1) 599 East 8th Avenue near the fairgrounds. Go to the front door.
2) The Shelter at Long and Sixth Streets downtown (i.e., 151 North Sixth). Turn left at the Lafayette Alley. If the kitchen dock is not open (which is where there is usually someone washing something who can take your produce right from your idling car), knock on the first door on the left. Faith Mission is the only location in Columbus that serves three free meals every day. [Editor's Note: The Columbus Dispatch reported on March 8, 2012 that Faith Mission was serving 500 meals every night and, although the shelter serves single adults, more children are coming, too. While the need has incrased 25% over the prior year, the food donations have decreased by 24%].
Hours: Monday – Sunday 8:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.
Will take anything except pumpkins.
Sorting: Preferably sorted, but need not be bagged. Is a good idea to weigh the produce beforehand if you want a receipt.
Provides tax receipts. Please have it weighed and have the donor’s name and address available in writing. They have their own forms that they will want to fill out while you wait. They sometimes (i.e., usually) run out of receipt forms, so it’s a good idea to bring your own to have them sign.
For more information: Ask for Todd Swayer or any cook in the kitchen. Phone: 774-7726 or the front desk at 224-6617. If you get an answering machine, it may tell you to contact Glen Kemp, but he has gone to live with the Lord.

Salvation Army. 966 East Main Street, Columbus, Ohio 43205. This is the closest food pantry to the SACG that I know of. You should park on the side and go to the front door. The pantry is just to the right of the front door. It is very, large, sparkling clean, and relatively empty.
Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Will take anything.
Sorting: They prefer the items to be sorted/bagged by type.
Provides tax receipts upon request at the front desk.
For more information, call Euri at 358-2626.

Bishop Griffin Center---St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry, 2875 E. Livingston Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43209 -- one block west of James Rd. at the corner of Wellesley Rd. and Livingston. There is parking along Wellesley Road. This pantry is very, very small.
Hours: 9 a.m until noon on Wednesdays and 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Fridays
Will take anything
Sorting: Does not have to be sorting or bagged.
Provides tax receipts upon request.
For more information, contact Marge at

Community Kitchen. This is the first soup kitchen in Columbus. Donations can be made at the rear of the building at 640 South Ohio Street.
Hours: Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
Will take anything except eggplant, unusual herbs, peas, chard, and turnips. They prefer bulk amounts so that they can make a whole dish out of it. Smith Farms regularly donates food here.
Sorting: Preferably sorted, but need not be bagged.
Provides tax receipts.
For more information: Ask for Marilyn Oberting at 252-6428. Check out their website at

Holy Name Soup Kitchen. Donations can be made at 57 South Grubb Street (off West Broad Street). Go to the front door. There is a blue cart by the door.
Hours: Monday – Friday 6:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. You may need to pound on the door after 12:30 because that’s when the doors are locked.
Will take anything.
Sorting: Not necessary.
Provides tax receipts. Can be provided if you wait or it will be mailed to you (if you provide names and addresses).
For more information: Phone: 461-9444. Holy Name is currently serving approximately 1200 lunches each day.

Mid-Ohio Food Bank. Donations can be made at its new location at 3960 Brookham Drive in Grove City. Take I-71 South to the Stringtown Road/Exit 100 and turn right. Take the very first right onto Marlanne Drive. You will pass Brookham Drive to the left and then turn left past the large Agency sign. Pull up to the four garage doors and go into the regular/entry door to the left of those doors to tell them that you have a produce donation. They will help you unload your car, weigh your produce and give you a receipt.
Hours: Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
Will take anything.
Sorting: Not necessary, but they prefer that the food be delivered in banana boxes (which you can get from your friendly local grocer) or empty copy paper boxes.
Provides tax receipts. MOFB will weigh your donation on the spot and give you a receipt.
For more information: Call Lori Coleman at 274-7770.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Center. This is a food pantry at 441 Industry Drive, Columbus, Ohio 43204. This is a little tricky because there is no street sign. It is located in the Valley View Commerce Park of office buildings. It is a one-story, long white building across the street from the ODFJS West Opportunity Center.
Hours: Wednesday– Thursday 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays: 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Will take anything.
Sorting: Preferably sorted and bagged separately.
Provides tax receipts. You’ll have to fill out the receipt yourself, so it would be a good idea to weigh your produce before dropping it off.
For more information or to schedule a drop-off: Call Alma Santos at 340-7061. The population served by the Center is mostly Latino and Hispanic. They are also accepting donations of clothing (particularly children’s clothes) and household items.

LifeCare Alliance a/k/a Meals on Wheels a/k/a Groceries To Go a/k/a Cancer Clinic a/k/a Project Open Hand. Life Care Alliance has recently consolidated the food pantry operations of the Cancer Clinic and Project Open Hand (which serves the HIV community). It also runs Congregational Dining Centers and Carrie’s Café for ambulatory senior citizens (who do not yet need meals on wheels). Donations can be made 670 Harmon Avenue. Use the pantry entrance between the two handicapped parking spaces. It’s best to call ahead.
Hours: Monday, Wednesday – Friday 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. (There are staff there on Tuesdays, but they are usually stocking shelves and unloading trucks).
Will take anything.
Sorting: Not necessary, but helpful and they prefer that it be washed
Provides tax receipts. Will mail receipts. At drop off, donations should be identified by donor's name and address, product being donated and weight of each product.
For more information: Contact Maurice Elder or Chuck Walters at 670 Harmon Avenue, Columbus, OH 43223 or 614-298-8334.

South Side Settlement House. 310 Innis Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43207
Hours: Monday – Thursday 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.
Will take anything, except lettuce, pumpkins, chard and radishes
Sorting: Preferably sorted, bagged and washed, but is not required.
Provides tax receipts. Please have donors names available and receipts will be provided upon request on the spot.
For more information: Call Vivian Crowder at 444-9868.

NNEMAP Food Pantry. 1064 North High Street, Columbus, Ohio. (In the Short North. In an abandoned Church at the corner of High and Third. It is in the basement of the same building of Directions for Youth. When coming from the parking lot (which is on the north side of the building), you can take a door to the basement on the east side of the building which does not have a number or butterfly on it. There is a white bell on this door on the east side of the building which you can ring for assistance, but you should come down to the basement on the west side of the building).
Hours: Monthly 1st-19th: M-W-F 8:45 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. Monthly 20th-31st: M-F 8:45 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
Will Take: anything.
Sorted: Not necessary, but it would be nice to have it bagged and sorted.
Provides tax receipts: Upon request. Please have value ready to be inserted.
For more information: Call Roy Clark (an old friend) at 297-0533.

Broad Street Presbyterian Food Pantry, 760 East Broad Street (at the corner of Broad and Garfield -- about 2 blocks east of I-71. There is parking in the back).
Hours: 9- noon Monday through Friday (but arrangements can be made to open at 8 a.m.) and on Saturdays from 8:30 - 11:30 a.m.
Will take: anything, especially greens and tomatoes
Sorted: not necessary
Provides tax receipts upon request
For more information: call Cathy at 203-2544. The pantry serves approximately 100 families/week.

Neighborhood Services, Inc. 1950 North Fourth Street (at the corner of 18th Avenue).
Hours: Monday – Friday 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Will take: anything
Sorted: not necessary
Provides tax receipt: by mail 10-14 days later upon request
For more information: Call Cheryl at 297-0592 or email at This pantry serves about 25 families each day.

This list is not exhaustive and will be updated as additional information is provided. Feel free to let me know if you have information about other organizations which take garden produce and I will add them.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Will Allen Is Coming To Columbus in Two Weeks

Urban Gardening Guru, Will Allen, is coming to Columbus for a reception and two-day workshop in just two weeks.

In 2008, the MacArthur Foundation called Milwaukee’s Will Allen a genius for the work that he has done in developing urban food gardens in poor neighborhoods. In 2010, Time Magazine called him a hero and declared him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

FPC is honored, therefore, to be able to work with Mr. Allen’s new Columbus affiliate, Stiletto Gardener; Franklin Park Conservatory’s Growing to Green program; and other leaders of the Columbus progressive food movement to introduce Columbus to Mr. Allen and his work.

Mr. Allen will begin his visit on Friday, July 15, with a small reception at the Conservatory (1777 East Broad Street, Columbus). The reception will be followed by a keynote address at FPC describing his organization, Growing Power, its philosophy, its methods, and its accomplishments.

On Saturday and Sunday, the 16th and 17th, Mr. Allen will lead two hands-on workshops, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., on the details of urban food gardens, with subjects ranging from how to build a hoop-house to vermiculture to urban aquaponics. See location of workshops at

Tickets for the keynote address alone are priced at $35; reception and workshop tickets (limited availability) are $50 and $170, respectively, and include free admission to the keynote address. Tickets and more information can be obtained at the following URL: