Foundation Helps the Community Garden Grow

A community garden program is growing and relocating.

With the help of a $10,360 grant from the Fayette County Foundation, the project of the Cooperative Extension Service has funding to move forward.

Extension Director Tiffanie Stone previously received permission from the Connersville Parks and Recreation Board to move the program to Offutt’s Park, 3200 Virginia Ave.

“We were so impressed by Tiffanie’s enthusiasm for this project and are excited to grant a leadership gift toward its success,” said Katherine Good, Foundation program officer. “Tiffanie is building on a small program from last summer and incorporating numerous community partners with short- and long-term goals. She is bringing together different segments of our community and addressing community issues like health, access to fresh food and a lack of youth programming.”

The 2017 program included plowed plots near the Fayette County Animal Shelter and an area at Roberts Park with raised beds.

For 2018, Stone picked out a location at Offutt’s Park near the basketball court.

Individual garden plots will measure 4 by 8 feet. Each will be raised so there will be no need to plow, she said. Extension Educator Vicki Crowe’s husband cut down some trees and that will provide timbers for borders. 

Stone hopes to connect growing food in the garden with STEM: science, technology, engineering and math.

“There are a large group of high school graduates who do not feel their education has prepared them for college STEM courses,” she said. “We’re trying to make that connection at a young age to get them prepared for the future.”

The program is for kindergarteners to sixth graders but the 4-H focus is third to sixth grades, she said. Children can be transported to the site from local schools.

Weekly sessions will include work periods and lessons on nutrition and cooking by Extension Educator Becky Marvel.

Discover Kids, a Parks Department summer program, and Centerstone and Meridian Health youth will  participate.

Youth and community members will maintain their own garden beds and reap the benefits of fresh produce. Each plot costs $20 but the fee will be waived for youth. 

Signups will begin in April. People may call the Extension office before then at 765-825-8502 to be placed on a list of interested people.

In addition, the Connersville High School Agriculture Department and FFA Chapter are providing funding for raised beds at each elementary school. Educational kits will be available to teachers.

The Extension office is seeking a STEM Garden Program and Community Garden coordinator to help facilitate the program. They want to fill the position by March 16.

“It’s probably the most rewarding thing I did this past summer,” Stone said. “I think it’s going to be even more so this summer. All the kids who are part of the program will have access to the 4-H program, which is amazing but something we could not do without the Foundation and others supporting us.”