September 10, 2013

Harvest plants a seed: Community gardens continue to expand

Participants plan to continue, expand community gardens

by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune

---- — Now that it’s harvest time for the six community gardens that sprouted up in Logansport this spring, participants are not only calling the initiative a success, but are already developing ways for it to continue, improve and expand.

“I didn’t expect to be at this point for at least another two to three years,” said Thomas Henderson, executive director of the American Communities Transitioning to Sustainability, or ACTS, Project with the United Way of Cass County, which helped lead the initiative. “It’s about being in the right place at the right time. I’m amazed at how things have fallen together so well here.”

Gardens were established at Ivy Tech Community College, Peak Community Services, Emmaus Mission Center, Franklin Elementary School, Little Children’s Ministry at First United Methodist Church and the Senior Center. Transplants were grown and supplied by the Logansport High School Science Club.

Henderson, who formerly served on the National Board of Directors of the National Community Gardens Association, estimated each plot is capable of producing 20 to 30 meals.

He said one of his favorite results of the project was the amount of children involved and the enthusiasm they showed.

“What was so beautiful about the Little Children’s Ministry is that the kids planted and the first harvest was radishes, and they could not wait to eat radishes, because they grew them, and liked it when they did,” he said.

Cardinal Services had eight plots at Ivy Tech over the spring and summer.

Mindy Eisenbise, coordinator at Cardinal Services, said they’ve already canned more than 30 quarts of green beans and expects to end up with 30 quarts of tomatoes by the time the harvest is complete. All of the food will go toward the facility’s group homes and community living center.

“We’ll definitely be doing it next year,” Eisenbise said.

She went on to say her reasons for wanting to continue include not only to provide a sustainable food source for Cardinal Services’ clients, but a chance for them to meet others in the community as well.

“We had some good interaction with other people that were also doing the community garden out there, so our individuals got to meet people they normally wouldn’t meet and interact with them,” Eisenbise said. “It’s neat to have them get out there and meet people they wouldn’t have normally met.”

The Emmaus Mission Center turned one of its parking lots into a garden this spring with seven raised plots that produced tomatoes, tomatillos, melons, corn, basil, peppers and bok choy. All of the produce will be available to those staying at the center’s shelter.

“We’re trying to prove that by growing stuff on asphalt, that it can be done anywhere,” said Jason Mitchell, executive director of the center.

Mitchell, who also chairs the Food Security Task Force for the Cass County Community Resources Network, which also helped organize the initiative, said he felt the results of the garden were as recreational and they were nutritional.

“We understand that our residents could benefit from freshly grown produce,” he said. “We knew it would be helpful for people who like to garden and don’t have the chance to garden.”

Mitchell added he would like to expand Emmaus’ community garden efforts to supplement the center’s food pantry in the future.

Franklin Elementary School had a community garden that spanned 112 square feet of basil, tomatoes and squash. Students and their families were welcome to the produce throughout the harvest.

“We’re really excited to have our first year completed with our garden,” said Hayley LaDow, principal of the school.

“We learned a lot for next year,” she continued, saying the students and faculty members now have a better grasp on which vegetables grow well together and better spacing techniques.

LaDow went on to say next year third-graders will be supplying the transplants for the garden as a part of their science units.

Henderson said he is looking froward to the ACTS Project continuing in Logansport, adding that two to three groups have already expressed an interest in joining the effort next year.

“It will definitely continue,” he said. “The beautiful thing is because the plots are already there, there’s no future cost... Those that will join in, we’ve worked on making it as economical as possible.”

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or