galioninquirer.com

New organization to focus on community gardens, education

January 15, 2014

(Editor’s note: This story from our Saturday, Jan. 18 issue did not run in its entirety. The Inquirer apologizes for the error.)


Matt Echelberry


mechelberry@civitasmedia.com


Galion will be looking a little greener this year, as the initiative to start up community gardens has gained support. The goal is to provide residents with a sustainable source of healthy produce and educate people on how to start growing their own, even while living in an urban environment.


Consider this: Within the Galion City limits, residents have only a few options of where to buy groceries, and some options are not within walking distance. For those with special diets or nutritional needs, finding what they need can be difficult. In the Uptowne area a limited access to healthy food, known as a “food desert,” is of particular concern.


Near the end of 2013, the Galion Gardens Education and Sustainability Center was formed to address the issue, and also to promote gardening for its many benefits to individuals and communities. The steering committee of GGESC, which comprises Michael McNeill, Missy Harris and Rick Hickman, is working with the Department of Agriculture, the OSU Extension Office, the Soil and Water Conservation District and local gardening clubs to implement a plan of action.


McNeill, who is director of the Galion Resource Center, will act as the administrator of the organization.


Although she is no longer serving on City Council, Harris will continue helping with the initiative, which was her passion while on Council. As co-founder of the Food L.O.V.E. (Local Organic Veggie-based Eaters) Club last year with her husband, Jaysen, Harris is particularly excited about the opportunity to promote nutrition locally.


Harris explained that GGESC’s vision is to work with groups and individuals that share similar goals, and emphasized that establishing and fostering community gardens will not interfere with other gardening clubs or local farmers’ markets — nor with other organizations working to improve Galion.


GGESC will not deplete these groups’ “donor pools” either, as their early fundraising efforts will focus on Terracycle, a company that pays for trash that is not locally recyclable, and sales of reusable tote bags.


Galion High School’s Teen Green club is helping with these efforts, after voting unanimously to assist with GGESC.


The city has tentatively agreed to allow the organization to use the grounds of the former water treatment plant at Heise Park. It chose the site due to the park’s central location and high traffic volume. However, security may be an issue once the garden is producing.


This year, they will only use the two acres of land surrounding the building because of all the repair work that needs done to the building itself. Eventually GGESC would like to have both indoor and outdoor gardens, a meeting/classroom space and offices.


The Heise site will be an educational center, Harris said, where people can learn how to implement both innovative and traditional growing techniques in their homes. It will be built as a showcase of methods ranging from “raised bed” and “square foot gardening” to “vertical gardening” and more, to offer Galionites many models of what can be done.


Aquaponic gardens are another possibility in the future. They do not require soil, use 90 percent less water and can grow year-round. Examples of this growing method can be viewed at KC’s Aquaworld, 110 Harding Way East.


GGESC hopes to launch “satellite gardens” as well, for smaller operations throughout the community. They have discussed using portions of vacant lots where the neighborhood schools were located, but sites are yet to be determined. Collaboration with local churches will also be fostered in GGESC’s mission.


All of the gardens will be entirely organic, meaning no chemicals will be sprayed or applied. And the gardens will not only contain vegetables, but herbs, flowers and other plant life as well. When the gardens are producing well, GGESC plans to donate extra produce to the Community Action Center and local food pantries.


GGESC is a non-profit organization, now under the umbrella of the Galion Community Foundation. All donations are tax deductible. Currently the organization is looking for volunteers to serve on an advisory panel, which will create bylaws and perform logistical planning.


For more information, send an email to mrsmissyharris@yahoo.com. You can also visit two online blogs: Galion Community Gardens (http://galioncommunitygarden.blogspot.com) and Galion Garden Group (http://galion-garden-group.blogspot.com)