Wednesday, August 22, 2012

2012 Annual GTG Harvest Celebration

Aside from the lack of rain, I have loved the weather we have had the last couple of weeks. Last week, I attended the free Pro Musica concert at Franklin Park Conservatory and it was bliss. Tonight, I was back at the Conservatory for the annual Growing to Green Harvest Celebration and Awards ceremony. As in years’ past, the food was fabulous and the weather was amazing. This is always an inspirational event and a nice time to touch base with other community gardeners. It doesn’t hurt that it is catered by yummy City BBQ (which grills the chicken on site) and is supplemented by a potluck of dishes made with fresh garden produce. Like the last two years, it was held in a giant tent on the south lawn. The event is organized and executed by the detail-oriented Women’s Board of Franklin Park Conservatory. I was joined by Cathy, and SACG gardeners Kelly, Charlie, Barb, Marvin, and Mari. We were briefly joined by an old friend from my Actors’ Theatre days, Simon Dowd, whose wife manages the Gantz Road Community Garden (last year’s community garden of the year). I also ran into former fellow Actors’ Theatre Board officer, Roy Clark (who now manages the NNEMAP food pantry and was there to support the Good Samaritan Community Garden).

There was a brief mention of the FPC’s Hub Garden program. Christy Gale, VP and Branch Manager of the JP Morgan Chase branch at Polaris talked about the bank’s support of GTG and how much they loved the community garden they started for staff at the Polaris branch.

The main event are the community garden awards.  There were 30 gardens nominated this year.

Neighborhood Improvement Project of the Year was sponsored by JPMorgan Chase. This $250 award goes to the park, gateway, streetscape, school or other community beautification project that does the most to beautify the surrounding community. I should admit that I nominated the collaboration of the SACG, Block Watch and Urban Connections to clean up the Stoddart Avenue neighborhood and push for the demolition of our former neighborhood eyesore. However, the award went to 4th Street Farms in the Weinland Park neighborhood. SACG gardener Joey sometimes volunteers there on Saturdays and they have nice t-shirts.

Education Garden of the Year was this year presented and sponsored by the Keefe Family Foundation. This $500 award is given to a school or other organization that utilizes garden projects for educational purposes. It was given to the Highland Youth Garden in the Hilltop, which has approximately 300 children participating. This Garden started in 2009 and had previously won Community Garden of the Year in 2009 and Peggy won Community Gardener of the Year last year.

Paul B. Redman Youth Leadership Award is presented by the Franklin Park Conservatory's Women's Board and provides $250 to the youth (under the age of 18) for use for his/her community garden or his/her education in gardening. This year, it went to Justin, a volunteer at the American Addition Community Garden who helps the younger children learn about gardening. Justin, who lives in New Albany immediately donated the award to the community garden.

This was the second year for the Sustainability Award, which is sponsored and presented by the American Community Garden Association through its Executive Director, Beth Urban. This $250 award recognizes the garden that is utilizing sustainable community gardening practices, including community building activities, sustainable garden design, and green practices (such as rain barrels, etc.) that have proven sustainable over the long term. It also comes with a garden cart (valued at $250) donated by the Gardener Supply Company. Last year, it was awarded to the SACG and we raffled off the cart, which was won in November by Marge Telerski at the St. Vincent de Paul community garden (where I donated SACG tomatoes this morning). How ironic, then, that the St. Vince de Paul Garden won the Sustainability Award and the cart this year. Bruce Harkney mentioned the garden’s new greenhouse, which helps extend its growing season, and its new programs of providing garden plants and containers to the clients of the food pantry the garden supports. Marge, of course, mentioned that anyone who has been able to grow anything this summer deserves an award. Amen Sister. The SVDP garden has previously won community garden of the year and neighborhood improvement project of the year.

Community Gardener of the Year. This $250 award for the community gardening project (sponsored by GreenScapes Landscape Co.) 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. I have to admit that I thought this would finally be the year that Penny and Suzanna from the Evergreen Garden Ministries (which has six gardens in three counties and involves scores of children) would finally get well-deserved recognition. But I was wrong. This is the third year in the past four that it went to one of the gardeners of the Upper Arlington Lutheran Church Community Garden off Mill Run. Todd Marti received the award this year. Kelly Hern received it in 2009 and in 2010 it went to Glen Demott. They grew over 9000 pounds of food last year to support the church’s urban ministries and to support the Lutheran Social Services food pantries.

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. This year it went to the Good Samaritan Community Garden. It is supported by Ascension Lutheran Church and supports, among other things, the local Bhutan immigrant community. It began as a way for the gardeners to grow food for the clients of the Helping Hands free clinic and then to support the NNEMAP food pantry in the Short North.

There was another new award this year. The Boyd W. Bowden, D.O. Garden Impact Award (sponsored by the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation) was to recognize a garden that excels in Nutrition, youth education, promotion of culture and food projection. This was the least suspenseful event of the evening (despite Patrick’s protestations to the contrary). It went to Franklinton Gardens for all of the fabulous work it does on the near west side.  And their matching t-shirts.  Franklin Gardens won community garden of the year in 2010.

Nice night.

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