We love it when neighbors put energy behind their creative ideas designed to help neighbors. Erica Sullivan presented the idea behind Gardens For Good at a micro-grant dinner that fosters community & raises funds for creative projects that enhance Fort Wayne living called, Fort Wayne Soup. Erica presented her idea and won at the Soup hosted at end of June 2017.
Gardens For Good is an empowerment tool designed to give residents in lower-income, food desert neighborhoods a 4' x 4' raised bed garden and all the tools like seeds, planting instructions, and master gardening support needed to increase access to healthy produce for their families. Access to produce at an affordable price is a real issue for some of our more vulnerable neighborhoods.
Erica has a passion for home gardening, healthy eating, and has several connections within the healthcare industry as a former Parkview Health employee. One of the needs she identified was that there was a lack of opportunity to put the lessons in practice in simple ways by residents taking various classes to improve their health in these areas. Erica had the idea of creating small garden packages that could be used as an incentive to individuals enrolled in the HEAL program – a program brought to life through a collaboration between Parkview Health and St. Joe Community Health Foundation. This program’s goal is to improve the health and nutrition of the most vulnerable populations in Allen County’s low-income, food desert areas. Individuals in this program attend weekly nutrition classes and those who are lucky enough to receive one of Erica’s gardens, will receive weekly support to ensure this first-time endeavor is as successful as possible. Personal gardens allow participants to embrace growing their own food and solves the access to healthy foods problem. Each garden is designed to be just big enough to give someone a good idea of what's possible without being overwhelming or taking up too much space. If neighbors successfully adopted these garden beds, then Parkview could potentially pick this up as a program they help scale or the neighbor could add on to the garden bed to grow even more produce.
Erica approached NeighborLink to see if we could partner on this project and leverage our volunteers to help design, build, and implement these gardens along with her community of friends. Of course we said yes because we've been a part of a few community garden projects before and believe that putting gardens in people's backyards increase the success rates of it being adopted. Gardening takes some hard work, a lot of patience, and a willingness to troubleshoot throughout the season as you nurture those plants to fruit bearing maturity. The more barriers you can remove from that process, the more likelihood you would produce the food you want and believe that it has a potential life transforming benefit.
NL volunteers have already got a jump start on the process and have 10 beds created and packaged for installation come spring. The beds are designed to be assembled on site with the help of the recipient because we want them to be as involved as possible. Once we get closer to planting season, stay tuned for the install dates as we'll need volunteers that want to go house to house to build beds, fill with dirt, and walk through the planting process.
We're excited to see this come to life. Thanks David Kattau and the Carpenter's Sons who jumped at the opportunity to engineer, cut, and assemble these garden packages.