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Bill Dawson profile: Garden Crusader award

  • Subject: [cg] Bill Dawson profile: Garden Crusader award
  • From: Don Boekelheide dboekelheide@yahoo.com
  • Date: Mon, 30 Jan 2006 19:43:04 -0800 (PST)

(Poster's note: Take a look at the last paragraph -
Columbus and Bill may become very influential in ACGA
in the months and years ahead, since ACGA's Board has
decided to move ACGA's offices from NYC Council on the
Environment (which have been hosting us as a favor,
thanks in large measure to ACGA President Gerard
Lordahl) to Columbus, Ohio's, Franklin Park
Conservatory. DB)

Bill Dawson- Crusader Urban Renewal Winner

Gardening has always been part of Bill Dawson's life.
Growing up in Ohio, he often would help his German
grandfather in their large vegetable garden each
summer. As an adult he worked for golf courses and
landscapers fostering a growing passion for plants.
However, it wasn't until he worked for Ameriflora (an
International Flower Exposition) in 1992, did he get a
taste of the people-side of gardening. "I ran a youth
program taking disadvantaged kids from the Columbus,
Ohio area and worked with them to landscape homes
around the cityms Franklin Park in anticipation of the
Ameriflora public horticultural exposition" says Bill.
"We landscaped 70 houses, and I really got hooked on
working with these kids. They grew personally and
socially in the process of creating beautiful
landscapes they could be proud of," he says. 

Franklin Park Conservatory & Botanical Gardens

After Ameriflora was over, instead of going back to
landscaping, Bill stayed on at Franklin Park
Conservatory & Botanical Gardens and worked
maintaining the gardens left behind. "We had to start
from scratch," he says. "Ameriflora took most of the
plants and equipment when they pulled out."  While he
was doing most of the work himself, Bill remembered
the kids he had worked with at Ameriflora and started
gathering volunteers to help. 

Greening to Grow

By 2002 Bill took over the Greening to Grow Program
Community Garden program the city had instituted a
year before. This program was developed to build and
assist community garden, school garden, and
beautification projects in Columbus. At that time
there were only 10 community gardens in the city and
those were struggling to survive. Three years later,
Bill and Greening to Grow have made a world of

There are now more than 50 community gardens and 35
other school gardens and beautification projects in
Columbus. Although Bill didnmt start them all, he's
been a vital resource for many of them. He helps
secure starter funding for the gardens and has
developed an Urban Gardening School. Once a civic
group or neighborhood association gets the money to
start a garden they enroll in Billms 8-week community
gardening program. Itms more than just learning about
plants. Bill teaches about fund raising, motivating
volunteers, community organizing and garden program
maintenance. "What good is starting a new garden, if
you canmt keep it going with the resources you have,"
says Bill.

One project he ms particularly proud of involves
juvenile offenders from the court system. The court
officers wanted to have first time offenders create a
garden as a way to fulfill their community service.
Bill worked with the youth offenders and the city
officials to help clean out a city lot in the roughest
section of town, design the gardens, help install the
plants, and train the youth and supervisors on how to
keep the project running. "After only one year of
growing this garden, they won the city-wide Best
Community Garden Award," says Bill. The kids really
took pride in the work involved in gardening. They
appreciated the beautiful, productive garden they
created. "Much of the food grown went to the local
food shelf so they felt like they were giving back to
the same community they had offended," says Bill.

Bill's Demonstration & Teaching Garden

While hems busy helping gardeners round the city, Bill
still has time to plant, maintain and teach classes at
the Franklin Park Conservatory & Botanical Gardens.
"Therems a model 19 plot community garden on-site that
I oversee. We're very involved in Plant a Row for the
Hungry, so I ask each community gardener to donate a
certain percentage of their produce to the local food
bank," says Bill. 

The apple of Bill's eye is the demonstration garden at
Franklin Park Conservatory. Bill uses it to teach
school and adult groups. There are organic vegetable
gardens, fruit garden, sensory garden, cut flower
garden, two shade gardens, herb gardens, a perennial
garden, and a newly installed accessible garden. "I
worked with local high school kids to design and plant
the accessible garden," says Bill. lWe also developed
curriculum for schools to use in the garden." The
accessible garden includes 3 raised table beds so kids
in wheelchairs can roll under the beds and garden.

Columbus Food Shed Project

Even though Bill's plate is full with the
demonstration gardens and consulting with the
community and school gardens, he still has time to
work collaboratively on other city-wide projects. The
Columbus Food Shed Project approached Bill a few years
ago to start gardens in 24 Head Start sites around the
city over the a three year period. Bill worked with
them teaching the teenagers who would be at the Head
Start sites how to teach the young children about
gardening. "We not only had kids learning about
gardening, but they would learn about nutrition and
good eating habits at a very young age," he says.
"This is when you really can make a difference."

And Bill's one-man band of making Columbus a more
gardening- friendly city is being noticed elsewhere.
He's been talking with the American Community
Gardening Association (ACGA), a national organization
dedicated to promoting community gardening. Theymve
decided to move their headquarters to Franklin Park
Conservatory & Botanical Gardens in the near future.
This will give Bill more ideas, projects and help
making gardening more available for everyone.

The American Community Gardening Association listserve is only one of ACGA's services to community gardeners. To learn more about the ACGA and to find out how to join, please go to http://www.communitygarden.org

To post an e-mail to the list:  community_garden@mallorn.com

To subscribe, unsubscribe or change your subscription:  https://secure.mallorn.com/mailman/listinfo/community_garden

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