The Herald Bulletin

April 25, 2013

Community Garden kicks off in Park Place

By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — Green thumbs have a new place to put roots down. Park Place Community Center this week opens its community garden. The center hosted a garden kickoff and spring block party Saturday to celebrate and involve the community.

“We had a great turnout,” said Kristin Stayer, Park Place Community Center director. Party-goers previewed the garden, as well as enjoyed food and fun.

“We have 27 plots available for the community,” said Danielle Baum, an Anderson University practicum student involved with the project. The plots are available to the public.

“This is our first summer. It’s just another way we could get different people involved and to provide food security in our community,” she said.

Saturday, more than half of those plots were snatched up by people who attended the event. Each one gets an 8-foot by 8-foot garden-ready patch of dirt to work the wonder of growing things.  Cost is just $15, and the commitment to tend the garden.

“Our hope is that we can build community and build community food security through the garden,” said Stayer.

Gardeners agree to stay involved in their portion of the garden. That includes making it look nice by weeding and harvesting. Among the few other rules for the garden is a promise to use only organic fertilizers, and not to use harmful herbicides or pesticides.

While tending their gardens, members of the community will have access to tools and water at the site.

Among the fun activities at Saturday’s event, kids painted rocks to dress up the gardens. Kids as well as adults enjoyed toasting marshmallows over open fires, then layered them up with chocolate on graham crackers to create s’mores.

Asa Butler, age 2,  was snacking on a colorful fruit cup.

“You can’t go wrong with grapes and strawberries,” said Asa’s mom, Kim. She said her family lives nearby, so she’s thinking about talking her husband into growing tomatoes and winter squash at the garden.

Other gardeners had beans, carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and more on their minds.

Conner Ring, age 7, of Anderson, is planning to help out in one of the gardens. His eyes lit up at the notion of salsa from fresh tomatoes, but he was too busy eating a s’more to say much about it.

“The food pantry is using one or two plots to provide fresh food and to involve after-school kids,” said Baum. The  center’s volunteer-driven food pantry served 16,906 visitors during 2011-2012, and they project that during 2012-2013 those visits will exceed 18,000.

For after-school kids, it will be a hands-on opportunity to have fun while learning.

“We’re going to do educational  plots for the children and youth,” said Stayer.