The Muskingum SWCD’s mission is to provide leadership and assistance for the conservation and enhancement of our natural resources and environment. To extend this mission to inner-city residents of Muskingum County, a program called Urban Greens was developed. Its goal is to create community food garden spaces offering access to fresh produce and educational opportunities for local residents. Over the course of the project, five new gardens were developed in the county, two were expanded and one was revitalized.
The program is currently focused on the Putnam neighborhood, which has been identified as a “food desert” where residents do not have nearby access to fresh, healthy food. In addition to the goal of teaching residents to grow their own fresh food, community gardens provide a unique opportunity for building community, growing neighborhood pride, combating hunger issues, providing family recreation opportunities, and engaging residents in local history and art.
A total of 48 raised beds and one in-ground garden were established. New gardens established were The Community Gardens at Restoration Park (32 raised beds), ten handicapped accessible beds at Putnam First United Methodist Church, and a school garden at Zanesville Community High School. The Bethel Community Center expanded their garden from four to ten raised beds. Assistance was provided to garden establishments in New Concord, Eastside Community Gardens and Avondale Youth Center.
Urban Greens developed 3,350 square feet of new growing space in Muskingum County; engaged 870 individuals at events, garden work days and programs; delivered 75 pounds of fresh produce to Zane Grey Intermediate School for the summer lunch program; and delivered over 450 jars of applesauce to local food pantries. The apples were locally-grown and processed in a local commercial kitchen by volunteers.
Through a grant from Muskingum County Jobs and Family Service, two youth and one college student were employed for eight weeks to work within the program. Additional resources included $11,347 in grants, $11,025 in cash and in-kind donations, and other entities’ grant funds used for the Urban Greens program.
Urban Greens staff have been working in the community to ensure each garden has the proper leadership in place to move forward regardless of whether additional funding is secured by the district. Additionally, partner agencies and organizations have been included in the project, so programs such as community events and educational opportunities continue to be offered.
Below is a summary of grants received and grants recently submitted by program staff for the purpose of project continuation and enhancement.
- Urban Greens received the proceeds of a Muskingum County Farm Bureau Dinner on the Farm event in the amount of $10,000.
- The Muskingum SWCD Board of Supervisors voted to provide $10,000 from the district fund to help sustain the Urban Greens program past 2017.
- Urban Greens received a grant from Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation in the amount of $3,000 to expand the Zanesville City Schools Farm to School garden and to develop a program to introduce children to fresh, locally grown foods at the school’s summer lunch sites.
- A $3,500 grant was given by the Ohio 4-H Foundation to develop “Kids Dig It,” a garden expansion and education program that will serve low-income and at-risk youth at the Zanesville City Schools garden in the summer of 2018.
- A USDA Farm to School Grant has been submitted on behalf of Zanesville City Schools to develop more farm-to-school learning opportunities by expanding its school gardens, implementing horticulture education, and procuring more local foods for school meals.