Holly Catron, the Community Wellness Coordinator from Boone County learned of a Placemaking grant received by The Heart of Lebanon board that the board had not discovered a use for. After conducting an assessment, Ms. Catron suggested the funding be used to implement a downtown community garden, and the board readily agreed. Feeding America reports, 1 in 10 Boone County adults, and 1 in 6 children are food insecure.
She worked with local master gardeners and community partners to gain access to space, developed a scope of work and budget, and created a team to implement the project, leveraging statewide Extension resources, who provided guidance and garden seeds.
As the team kicked off community meetings to plan the garden, three additional organizations stepped forward with an interest in helping develop community gardens.
- Peter’s Episcopal Church had implemented a share garden, but were seeking connections in the community.
- The Lebanon Church of Christ wanted to convert two acres of land into a community garden, but had no idea how to do it.
- The Arc of Greater Boone County, with a mission to assist people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, wanted to implement a sensory garden for community use.
So, the team developed The Boone County Community Garden Network. They took on a mission to “Grow a sustainable network of gardens to educate, eat well, and create a thriving community.” They developed a logo and a brochure, and began to spread the word.
With donations, the team implemented a large production garden and partnered with the Lebanon High School (LHS) FFA club to provide weekly hands-on gardening classes to 50 Lebanon Boys & Girls Club summer campers. The FFA students received a stipend for their work, provided through a Boone County Master Gardener grant. A plan to sustain this partnership through funding is underway.
As part of the program, the students participated in a beekeeping class offered at St. Peter’s garden. Produce from all of the gardens, harvested by volunteer groups organized through this team, is provided to local food pantries and feeding programs.
Plans are underway to offer a Junior Master Gardener program, canning and preserving classes, and other educational opportunities. The network of four gardens is expected to expand in 2018 to cover more of Boone County.