The Greene County SWCD provided funds to the Springfield Community Gardens (SCG), which leveraged them to create a working urban market garden in Springfield’s under-resourced Zone 1 district. The garden acts as a center of educational opportunities, technical assistance and sustainable production located at a former elementary school turned community center named The Fairbanks.
SCG hosted 10 free educational workshops focusing on topics such as soil health, water catchment, seed saving and seed diversity, safe food handling, permaculture, irrigation installation and more. The workshops engaged approximately 270 community members, some driving in from neighboring towns. Eight of the 10 workshops were hosted at the Market Garden, giving folks an opportunity to learn about the Market Garden Program and the related resources available at The Fairbanks.
The Market Garden has developed into a productive space serving the community. Using help from over 286 volunteers giving over 830 hours of service, the space now has 34 in-ground beds in production totaling approximately 3,725 square feet of bed space.
Produce grown at the SCG Market Garden has several outlets including the weekly C-Street City Market, also located in Zone 1. This market has been working to recruit more vendors selling fresh, local produce and the SCG Market Garden helping fill that need. The weekly contact with market patrons allows connection with even more people about ways to get involved with SCG through gardens, education or events.
Produce is also sold to area restaurants, neighbors, the on-site preschool and the on-site non-profit hosting free weekly community dinners. It is donated to community dinners, local food distributions and given to our volunteers. In a four-month period, the garden produced over 1,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables.
The SCG Market Garden has provided technical assistance and resources to a network of 23 community gardens as well as school gardens and neighbors. Technical assistance has ranged from cover crop education and seeds to season extension, crop rotation and crop planning and IPM strategies. Community and school gardens were also offered plant starts throughout the spring in order to jump start their gardens.
The SCG Market Garden has been a success and valuable addition to a neighborhood being revitalized through a number of grassroots efforts focusing on food, wellness, access to resources and community building.
In September, Springfield Community Gardens (SCG) received a $375,000 USDA Community Food Project Grant for the next three years to continue building SCG’s Market Garden Program focused on practicing and teaching sustainable food production. Through the grant, SCG will pay neighbors from the community to serve as garden apprentices in order to train even more urban farmers. It also facilitates the development of value-added products to sell to the on-site preschool and to several after-school children’s meal sites.
The continued sale of produce and value-added products will ensure a long-term, unrestricted funding stream to help support the network of gardens throughout the city and the Market Garden program itself. SCG established an annual fundraiser to celebrate local food and to help sponsor the organization’s operational costs. Additional grant funding will ensure SCG can provide educational workshops with the help of community partners.
SCG hired a full-time farmer to continue running the Market Garden as well as an Executive Director to continue developing the organization and its outreach.