Wednesday, September 16, 2009

SACG and Bexley Gardeners Attended GTG Awards Ceremony and Harvest Festival.

Last week, Barb, Barb’s sister, Betty, Joe and I attended the Growing to Green Awards Ceremony and Harvest Celebration at Franklin Park Conservatory. We were joined at our table by Betsy Johnson from the ACGA and a FPC volunteer. Barb has attended in past years and explained to us in advance the importance of bringing a substantial side dish since there would be a lot of people there who forgot to bring food. City BBQ catered and all of the food was delicious.

Before the ceremony began, Joe, Betty and I toured the new community garden campus that had opened the prior evening.

Bless his heart, the Mayor wanted us to nominate the Bexley Garden. I nominated the SACG for an award (because I need the money to build more raised beds along Cherry Street and to convert the SACG to a non-profit and won’t qualify for any grants since I am not a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization). Of course, I had no realistic expectations that the SACG would win an award because I’m not blind to the fact that when I make our weekly 12 or so pound produce donations to the LSS Choice Food Pantry and/or Faith Mission I often follow a 90 pound donation from the Four Seasons Farm. I figured that one of the Four Season Farm gardens or one of the twelve new gardens in the University District (which has been working with youth groups to establish urban farmers’ markets) would be prohibitive favorites.

Jim King from the Scotts Miracle Gro Company was the keynote speaker for the evening. He talked about his gardening experience from his youth and how Scotts was the market leader in every country in which they conducted business.

The awards:

Neighborhood Improvement Project of the Year. This $250 award (sponsored by GreenScapes Landscape Company) was to be awarded to the park, gateway, streetscape, school, or other community beautification project which did the most to benefit the surrounding community. It was awarded to Family Life St. Vincent de Paul Pantry Garden on Livingston Avenue. Most of us know this as the community garden at Christ the King Church – which received the Outstanding Community Garden of the Year last year in 2008. Its representative (probably Marjorie) explained how unexpected it was to receive another award in only the Garden’s third year of existence. She explained that the Garden had received a ten cubic yard mountain of top soil last year and it had become an eyesore because it was so tall and they did not know what to do with it. In the Spring, they decided to create flower beds surrounding the Garden and as they began to plant, neighbors spontaneously brought them seedlings and divided plants from their own gardens. See Christ The King Church Has Community Garden on Livingston Avenue near Bexley.

Education Garden of the Year. This $500 award (sponsored by the Hinson Family Trust) was to be awarded to the top garden at a school or other organization that utilizes garden projects for educational purposes. It was awarded to theYWCA Family Center Growing Home Community Garden on Harvey Court. Some people may know this as the successor to the Interfaith Hospitality Network. The representative explained that she had been hired to coordinate the gardening program even though she had no prior experience in gardening. She created five different edible gardens with a theme based on different geographic cultures. There was an asian garden, hispanic garden, african garden, etc. She would work with the children to explain about different foods grown and eaten in various parts of the world. The children – a different group of which circulates every 90 days – helped her plant, harvest and cook the food. Earlier in 2009, Scotts had awarded $2500 to the YWCA to establish this garden.

Paul B. Redman Youth Leadership Award. This $250 award (sponsored by the FPC Women’s Board) was given to an outstanding youth gardener (18 years or younger) to further his/her education and interest in gardening, or to make improvements in his/her community garden. It was awarded to Sedrick Dessin of the Highland Community Garden. His nomination explained that he helped a lot with planting and making zucchini bread. He was very, very cute.

Community Garden of the Year. This $500 award (sponsored by The Scotts-Miracle Gro Company) was to be awarded to the top neighborhood gardening project for beautification and/or food production. It was awarded to the Hilltop Highland Community Garden (at the intersection of Highland Avenue and Floral Avenue). Dan Downing (the Garden's leader) explained that this had been a true grass roots movement that began in response to the City closing the area recreational center. Like the SACG, they are located on an abandonned lot, but unlike the SACG, Dan rented heavy equipment to dig out the endless supply of construction debris. They hope to put a similar garden on every block in the Hilltop area. As mentioned below, Jim King spontaneously jumped up and increased the amount of the award by $2500 in product and funds from Scotts Miracle-Gro. (Scotts had earlier in 2009 awarded $2800 to Friends of the Hilltop to support community gardens through the Columbus Foundation grant application process which began in October 2008). They brought a large and joyful contingent with them to the awards ceremony.

Community Gardener of the Year. This $250 award for the community gardening project (sponsored by Chase Bank) was to be awarded on account of a person who is exceptionally dedicated to his/her neighborhood garden and/or the movement of community gardening in central Ohio. It was awarded to Kelly Hern of the Upper Arlington Lutheran Church Community Garden, which is on Mill Run Drive in Hilliard. The nomination explained that the Upper Arlington Lutheran Church Garden had donated approximately 1700 pounds of produce to area food banks. That’s a lot of zucchini and a lot of trips to the pantry. I figured that was probably 150 pounds of produce donated each week. Jim Smith was so moved that he jumped up and offered her $25 in product and funds from Scotts Miracle-Gro. (We know he meant more than that and he got up later and clarified that he meant $2500). Scotts had earlier in 2009 awarded the Upper Arlington Lutheran Church $2500 to establish its community garden to support the Hilliard Free Summer Lunch program and provide hunger relief programs for the Hilltop area.

Of course, I’m sinfully envious of the enormous Upper Arlington Lutheran Church, and its three campuses, large tract of vacant land on Mill Run in Hilliard, their large number of volunteers, their insurance coverage and how they did not have to constantly dig out an endless amount of construction debris. (Of course, I don't have to worry about deer, either). It’s hard for a suburban garden to win one of these awards.

The program had been scheduled to run from 6-9, but really only lasted from 6:30 until 8:30. We left behind a produce donation for the Plant a Row Program and took an herb seed packet donated by Foertmeyer and Sons Greenhouses.

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