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Witchita, KS: Community Gardens Growing!

  • Subject: [cg] Witchita, KS: Community Gardens Growing!
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Wed, 28 Apr 2004 04:21:03 EDT

The Witchita Eagle - 04/28/04
Spring bustin' out at community gardens

The concept of leasing space to aspiring horticulturists is growing in Wichita, along with a sense of green-thumb kinship among the gardeners.


The Wichita Eagle

At least four community gardens are growing in Wichita, and the organizer of a workshop on how to develop them hopes more will soon be on the way.
"Usually, when you have good projects like that -- Hilltop and south-city -- you start developing waiting lists, once people catch on to what you can do with them," said Justin Russell, community gardening coordinator for the Campaign To End Childhood Hunger at Inter-Faith Ministries.
"You can lease and grow your own food, just get out there and have a ball, have picnics with your neighbors."
Russell hopes the training that will be offered by a national group next month at Inter-Faith will spur interest in the gardens in Wichita and some renewed support from city government.
A community garden is a plot of land where people garden together. The first such gardens in this area started in Hutchinson and at Newman University, around 1979 or 1980, Sedgwick County Extension agent Bob Neier said. Both gardens are still going strong.
The community garden in the Hilltop neighborhood, near the Via Christi Regional Medical Center-St. Joseph Campus, is in its seventh year and expanding to include a Peace Garden as an oasis of beauty.
Two new gardens -- one in Garvey Park in south Wichita and another near 13th and West streets -- are just getting started this spring and show promise, Russell said.
"There's a lot of energy and a lot of potential there," he said of the garden at 13th and West streets, spearheaded by Lynn Scott, a minister and master gardener.
The Garden of Eatn' at Garvey Park is going more slowly, but people are committed to it, he said.
"They're putting a lot of time and effort into it, putting thought into it and a few more resources," Russell said. "You expect it to be there 15 to 50 years, and that's what we're really trying to go for."
At Hilltop, in southeast Wichita, the garden has never stood still. Some new gardeners leased plots this year, and a few have left, too, because the garden will be closed Aug. 1 for renovation, said Pat O'Donnell, executive director of CSJ Dear Neighbor Ministries, which sponsors the garden.
"I think it has built community, because we have some of the original folks we started with," O'Donnell said. "They still come every year and they talk to each other, they care about each other."
Stormy Levy and her brother, Euland Rice, are leasing several plots this summer in Hilltop. They decided to grow for others and took the name Stagecoach Vegetables.
"We'll plant a seed and let it grow," Levy said. "We decided that we would just give back from earnest, hard work. It's very spiritual."
Garden clubs and nurseries are being sought to take a part in developing and maintaining the Peace Garden in Hilltop.
"It's a place where you could have retreats or someone could come and bring a guitar and just sit up on the deck and practice or come and read, or a group of the neighborhood could come," O'Donnell said. "Just a place to build community."
A potting table and benches where classes will be taught, a Sight, Sound and Sense garden and an area for children that will include fanciful birdhouses also are in the works at Hilltop.
At the Garden of Eatn', 55 of 99 plots have been leased so far. A garden shed is going up, a portable toilet is in and the city has furnished picnic tables.
Garden manager Esther Henderson has a fondness for wildlife, and there are purple martin and bat houses and a plan to add bluebird houses.
"It's been a lot of fun because it has brought out the neighbors," Henderson said. "Even if they're not a gardener, they've come out to help or just come back to chitty-chat."
At the Good Harvest Community Garden, near 13th and West streets, five people have begun gardening, and there's room for more.
Russell of Inter-Faith is excited about the possibilities of more gardens and gardeners.
"The trick is to find the land, have the support you need," he said. "Plenty of people have the interest.
"I think if they work together more, they could really build on something strong."

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