Outstanding Gardens

Twenty-five communities receive recognition from Mantis for efforts.

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Twenty-five community gardens from across the United States – ranging from a former “concrete jungle” in the Sonoran Desert city of Tucson to a 4-H club in Illinois that donated more than 10,000 pounds of food to a local food bank – have been selected to receive the 2008 Mantis Award for Community Gardens. Each winning community garden has received a lightweight Mantis Tiller/Cultivator for use in its gardening program.

The criteria for selection, according to Steve LePera, media manager for Mantis, included evaluating the program’s vision, organization and service to the community. The Mantis Award for Community Gardens is an annual award that began in 1995.

“Each year, Mantis is delighted to recognize wonderful community gardening programs for their dedication to gardening education and their success in bringing positive gardening experiences to people in their local communities,” LePera says. “This year’s crop of community gardens is living proof that gardening makes the world a better place, one garden at a time.”

For more information about the Mantis Award, contact the National Gardening Association at 800-538-7476 or visit the Web site at www.KidsGardening.com. For more information about the Mantis line of gardening tools, visit the Web site at www.Mantis.com.

2008 Mantis Award Winners
(in alphabetical order by state)

Sunrise Drive Elementary School, Tucson
The Sunrise Elementary School garden program intends to turn an area that formerly housed two decrepit classroom trailers into eighteen plots available, free-of-charge, to community garden members and school neighbors. The community garden will incorporate water harvesting, compost from school lunches, organic pest control and xeric irrigation methods to promote sustainability in its design.

Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy, Flagstaff
The Colton Community Youth Garden along with the Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy and the Museum of Northern Arizona collaborate to put organic gardening methods and sustainability education into action. It is the goal of this garden to create a space for intergenerational and intercultural exchange by creating a permanent garden that teaches youth how to grow food through hands-on environmental education, provide a garden space that serves as a museum exhibit, and create a community garden space for senior living community members without access to arable land.

CHIME Institute’s Arnold Schwarzenegger Elementary School, Woodland Hills
Through its outdoor garden, students who do not or cannot travel beyond the urban setting of their school can experience Southern California’s varied ecologies. Within the outdoor classroom is a cultivated area where seedlings are planted and nurtured and mature plants are harvested. Partnerships with Tree People-Los Angeles and the Native Botanical Garden will ensure opportunities for students to participate successfully in their educational experiences and develop a deeper appreciation of the environment.

Ruth Washburn Cooperative Nursery School, Colorado Springs
The Ruth Washburn Cooperative Nursery School garden serves as a model for its community by providing hands-on gardening experience which is incorporated into its curriculum. Maintaining and improving the gardens in which its children play, work and learn are priorities for this school. Children learn how to compost and how to care for vegetables and other plants.

North End Action Team, Middletown
NEAT serves approximately 3,600 low-income residents of its densely populated neighborhood. NEAT’s Erin Street Garden serves as a community organizing tool, beautification project and a welcomed piece of open space.

Somerset Clovers 4-H Club, Murphysboro
When the number of families in need at a local food bank increased from 100 to 260, Somerset Clovers 4-H Club decided to plant a community garden. The adult volunteers assist participating children who grow food for needy families as they learn about soil preparation, planting and harvesting.

Harmony School, Bloomington
Harmony School students use fresh fruits and vegetables from their garden for meals. The garden is also used for science and nature education. But their real success has been in partnering with Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard. In 2007, Harmony School provided 677 pounds of food to this local food pantry.

Dartmouth YMCA, Sharing the Harvest Farm Project
The Sharing the Harvest Farm Project is made up of local volunteers and is located on the grounds of the Dartmouth YMCA. This community garden project, whose primary purpose is to directly benefit food distribution agencies in the southeast Massachusetts area, distributed 6,000 pounds of produce in 2007. It expects an even larger yield in 2008.

Community Gardens Greenhouse, Lowell
Through its greenhouse project, Community Gardens Greenhouse distributes more than 4,000 Lowell-grown flowers and herbs to various local gardens. Citizens who wish to garden and beautify their respective neighborhoods benefit from this community garden project.

First Fruits Community Garden, Onaway
By serving more than 1,500 families in 2007, First Fruits Community Garden hopes to continue to positively impact the citizens of low-income, economically depressed areas within in its county. The garden, which provides the produce to its already established food bank, will also provide an area (and the seed) for those who wish to grow their own produce – all free of charge.
The Hip-Hop Health Initiative, St. Louis
By fostering partnerships between the youth in its program and senior citizens, faith-based organizations, community leaders and the business populace, The Hip Hop Health Initiative seeks to increase these relationships and bridge the generation gap. Called the “Sow Unique” partnership, mixed teams work together in landscaping, seed planting, trash removal, snow removal, grass cutting, soil turning and harvesting.

Sacred Heart Elementary School, Omaha
Each year, the students at Sacred Heart Elementary conduct Community Service Day where they help community members clean their yards, plant trees and pick up trash. This year they would like to transform an empty lot into a community garden as well. When done, they will have fixed up an empty lot, learned about nature and nutrition and provided a source of food for those around them who need it.

Community CROPS, Lincoln
Starting with an abandoned city lot six years ago, the Community CROPS non-profit community garden project has expanded and currently supports 12 community gardens and a 15-acre community farm. Community CROPS is improving the health of its community through access to nutritious foods.

University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension/Common Ground Garden Project, Auburn
Since it began in 1998, the Common Ground Garden Project has provided intergenerational, diversity-centered, garden programs to more than 300 inner city youth, elders and families. The crops produced from its weekly gardening and nutrition program go to 4-H program participants, while the remaining 1000 pounds is donated to the New Hampshire Food Bank.

East New York Farms!/United Community Centers, Brooklyn
Thanks to the East New York Farms! Project, 24 local teens can participate in a 9-month internship program, where they work the half-acre urban farm, neighborhood gardens and the East New York Gardener’s Market. They learn about agriculture, community collaboration, entrepreneurship and leadership, and, at the same time, the program makes nutritious food affordably available to the community.

The Brotherhood/Sister Sol, New York City
With the help of young volunteers and elders from the community, The Brotherhood/Sister Sol garden project has transformed a once dried out, brick laden, un-stewarded garden into a beautiful flower, vegetable and herb garden. The transformed lot now houses a gazebo, meeting space, a play space for its youth and a close-to-completion greenhouse.

Academy Heights Elementary School, Pinehurst
The 19 fifth-grade honor students who make up the Junior Beta Club at Academy Heights Elementary School will not only be making holiday meals from the vegetables they harvest, they will use the flowers from the cutting garden to create gifts for residents in the nursing homes they visit. All the students at Academy Heights Elementary School will benefit from the comprehensive outdoor learning garden and hope that it will encourage other schools to build outdoor learning gardens as well.

Rotary First Harvest, Eagle Point
The Rotary First Harvest project is a nonprofit established for charitable and educational purposes. It is dedicated to obtaining food products and providing them, without cost, to community food banks and similar feeding organizations. Its mission is to feed the hungry with fresh, nutritious produce through existing food distribution and transportation systems.

Volunteer State Community College, Gallatin
The Volunteer State Community College garden is both a resource for nature-centered learning and a site for appreciation of the natural environment. The garden is a place where students can learn biology, geology and the arts. In turn, those who walk the trails that surround the garden can experience and enjoy this gardening project as well.

South Plains Food Bank, Inc. – GRUB, Lubbock
The South Plains Food Bank project began as a means to grow food for low-income and food bank clients. Through the help of local experts, who teach monthly classes there, it has also become a job and life skills training ground for low-income and at risk teens.

Appalachian Sustainable Development – Learning Landscapes, Abingdon
Though its outdoor classrooms and gardens, Learning Landscapes offers a variety of programs to students in Washington County. By providing a dynamic hands-on education program, the organization’s intention is to heighten agricultural and environmental awareness and teach youth respect for the land, air, water, plants and animals. With many of the gardens located at the entrances to schools, visitors can enjoy them on a daily basis.

Virginia Living Museum, Newport News
Each year, more than 250,000 people visit the Virginia Living Museum and 400 children ages 3-12 participate in the museum’s gardening programs. The Children’s Learning Garden serves as an outdoor learning lab that provides meaningful hands-on natural science experience along with potential wildlife encounters.

Healthy City/Intervale Center, Burlington
Established in 1988, Healthy City’s youth food program provides a fun, comfortable setting for students and other community members to learn about environmentally sustainable agriculture and obtain hands-on farming and gardening experience.

The Willowell Foundation, Vergennes
Students who want to make an active contribution to hunger issues can volunteer their time to the Willowell Foundation. Food produced in the Walden Community Garden is donated to local shelters, farmer’s markers and farm-to-school lunch programs. Not only do students take responsibility for ensuring the needs of their community are met, they provide tasty and nutritional sustenance for themselves and others.

Rock Forge Neighborhood House, Morgantown
In 2007, more than 800 clients were served through the Rock Forge Neighborhood House garden and food pantry. As it grows, the Rock Forge Neighborhood House hopes to further its nutrition programming initiatives through workshops on food preservation and healthy cooking demonstrations.