The Hamilton County SWCD launched an urban agriculture program with three main initiatives: create programs to help alleviate food insecurity in the county; provide free technical assistance to any county resident who would like to start a garden or who needs help with an existing garden; and create the Hamilton County Garden Network to connect managers of community gardens across the county.
For the first initiative, staff surveyed and toured 33 food pantries in the county to determine existing needs. As a result, staff created several programs and partnerships, including a Where to Donate directory; a Farmers Bank Summer Produce Donation Program; and an Adopt a Food Pantry program. Details are at www.HamiltonSWCD.org/foodpantries.
On the second initiative, 51 site visits and 29 phone/email consultations were completed to develop formal plans for farmers/gardeners, suggest conservation practices, direct toward material and intellectual resources, research and create educational literature specific to local needs. Educational opportunities involved creating container gardens with several summer camps as well as speaking about free technical assistance and conservation practices at many clubs and organizations within the county.
For the third initiative, the goal to create the Hamilton County Garden Network (HCGN) came about because there was no program in place to connect managers of the county’s community gardens to allow them to exchange information, share best practices with each other, etc. In fact, there was not even a master list anywhere of the community gardens in the county. Through research and surveys of the managers, the community gardens and common issues were identified, as well as topics of interest. The district hosted three meetings for the HCGN and will continue to host the quarterly meetings.
In addition to the three projects, the district received media coverage and exposure for the programs, including 56 different exposures from 23 sources (this varied from local coverage in county newspapers to statewide coverage via NPR and the Indianapolis Star newspaper).
The district secured a grant of $15,000 in spring 2017 from a community foundation, which will allow the urban agriculture conservationist to continue working until March 2018. In early January 2018, a $38,000 grant from the Clean Water Indiana program was awarded securing the position through September 2019.
- Tip sheets and other information created by the conservationist
- The Where to Donate directory, which lists all food pantries in the county who would like to receive produce donations (this includes the names and addresses of the pantries along with the days/times they receive donations)
- Educational information about produce including the vegetable recipes from the food pantry recipe program
If the produce donation program at The Farmers Bank branches is successful this summer, the bank will continue the program in the future. It is hoped the businesses and service clubs that participate in the Adopt a Food Pantry program will continue on their own. The Hamilton County Garden Network will be sustained long-term by the district and network members.