by Caitlin Huston
LOGANSPORT — Looking across the grassy field of the Ivy Tech campus, Thomas Henderson surveys the land he plans to turn into a one- to three-acre community garden.
As the founder of the ACTS project – American Communities Transitioning to Sustainability – Henderson is working to develop community gardens in Logansport in order to create what he says will be a more sustainable economy and a healthier community. Henderson announced at a presentation Thursday night that the project has obtained the plot of land in front of Ivy Tech and is working with neighborhood groups and local schools.
Originally from South Carolina, Henderson has helped create community gardens across the country in cities like New York and Nashville as the Sustainable and Urban Agriculture Consultant for North America as part of the United Methodist Church. He has an undergraduate degree in Agriculture and a Master’s and Doctorate in Theology.
At a presentation Thursday night, Henderson outlined a plan where the ACTS projects first educates people on organic and sustainable farming while putting together funding for farm equipment and then uses networking to find out what plots of land are available. By spring, he said he hopes to have volunteers and organic farmers-in-training working on the land and planting crops, mainly vegetables.
“It will be the whole gamut of vegetables grown organically,” Henderson said.
Then, the food would be sold in the community and eventually lead to the creation of “cottage industries” that would work in processing, marketing and packaging the food.
The end goal is to “enable unsustainable communities to transition to vibrant sustainable communities that are socially, economically and environmentally just,” he said.
In addition to having healthier local food, Henderson also pointed out the economic advantage of food grown in the area, rather than having a large corporation shut down small area businesses.
“Local food cannot be Walmart-ed,” Henderson said.
Henderson said Logansport can also capitalize on its empty storefronts and turn them into businesses related to the farms.
“We’ve got a lot of buildings empty that can be conformed to create the various economics that meet local agriculture,” he said.
At Franklin Elementary School, Henderson said the project will be teaching third graders how to plant in small plots of land at the school in the springtime. In the summer and fall, he said he hopes the children bring neighbors and parents to help harvest the crops.
Henderson said he hopes to begin planting at Ivy Tech in April. He said the number of acres they plant will depend on the number of volunteers they get.
Chris Armstrong, Logansport’s community development director, said after the meeting that the city has been thinking about community gardens for a long time.
“We were trying to figure out if there were any lots of city land he could use,” Armstrong said.
She said she believes the project will benefit the city.
“It’s fantastic,” she said.
Barbara Wolfe, a Logansport real estate agent who attended the meeting, said she hopes the program can be expanded to help children who are now receiving food from community programs and teach them to learn how to grown their own food.
“My theory is you can’t do this forever,” Wolfe said.
Henderson said he is continuing to look for partners for his project, and is encouraged by the support he has received.
“I’m amazed at how fast things are falling into place here,” Henderson said.
Caitlin Huston is a staff reporter of the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5148 or firstname.lastname@example.org.