Rewarding Community Gardens

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Students work in the Lonnie Burton Learning Farm, a program of the Cleveland Botanical Garden.
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The Gifford Park Community Garden in Omaha, Nebraska.
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A labyrinth at the Leigh Farm is part of the SEEDS program in Durham, North Carolina.
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2010 Nature Hills Nursery Green America Awards
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Some of the students working at Leigh Farm as part of the SEEDS program in Durham, North Carolina.

Three outstanding community gardens from across the United States have been honored with 2010 Nature Hills Nursery Green America Awards.

Honored with the Grand Prize Award of $2,500 in plants was the Cleveland Botanical Garden for its Green Corps Urban Youth Program that is creating a “learning farm” on what was once a blighted urban lot. Teens from the surrounding low-income area will get hands-on instruction in organic gardening and farming principles while raising healthy food for themselves and their neighbors.

Chosen for the First Place Award of $1,500 in plants was the SEEDS program in Durham, North Carolina, which is developing community gardens and a youth-driven, urban farming leadership development program that empowers teens by teaching organic gardening, sound business practices, healthy food choices, and food security values.

Honored with the Second Place Award of $1,000 in plants was Gifford Park Community Garden in Omaha, Nebraska. With assistance from the Nature Hills Nursery Green America Awards, Gifford Park Community Garden will expand its Teen Market Garden Program, which teaches young adults about healthy living through gardening and connects youth with adult role models.

“The winners of the 2010 Nature Hills Nursery Green America Awards are nonprofit gardening projects that are truly making a real difference in their respective communities,” says Jeffrey Dinslage, president of Nature Hills Nursery, which sponsors the national awards. “We are proud to support these local efforts to create and expand gardens that foster education and food independence in urban environments.”

The Nature Hills Nursery Green America Awards were created to give national recognition and $5,000 in plants to community organizations and groups who are making “hands-on” improvements to their local environments.

Winners of the 2010 Nature Hills Nursery Green America Awards were chosen from more than 200 applications submitted by community groups, nonprofit organizations, and gardening programs from across the United States. Nature Hills Nursery, an Omaha-based website-only retailer that sells trees, shrubs, perennials and other plants, created the Nature Hills Nursery Green America Awards as a way to give back to the communities and people who have contributed to the success of the company.

“This year’s crop of Nature Hills Nursery Green America Awards winners is living proof that gardening makes the world a better place, one garden at a time,” Dinslage says.

For more information about the Nature Hills Nursery Green America Awards, visit the website or call 888-864-7663.

Cleveland Botanical Garden; Grand Prize, $2,500
Green Corps Urban Youth Program
11030 East Blvd.
Cleveland, OH 44106
Contact: Carol A. Marshall

In the heart of a subsidized housing development in Cleveland, Ohio’s poorest neighborhood was a two-acre abandoned site, strewn with building rubble and trash. Gangs were battling over turf on this blighted property. Residents, fearing for their safety, were leery of going to the community recreation center across the street. 

Cleveland city officials asked Cleveland Botanical Garden to build a garden on the property, and planning began. After discussions with residents, plans were developed to expand the Cleveland Botanical Garden’s Green Corps Urban Youth Program, an urban agriculture workforce readiness program for low-income teens, on this site. The Extension Service agreed to install raised beds for a community garden and teach interested residents. The Lonnie Burten Learning Farm, at 2511 East 46th Street, broke ground in September 2006 with city, Garden and CMHA representatives, a minister, and Green Corps teens attending a tree planting ceremony. Their presence announced that the green space revitalization effort was underway. By June 2007, the property had grass and saplings, a children’s splashpark, decorative fencing, walkways and raised beds for gardening.

The Green Corps farm has expanded dramatically during the past two summers. Teens now grow 20 varieties of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers at the learning farm and sell their harvest at local farmers markets. They plant several raised beds for residents to pick tomatoes, collards and other vegetables at no cost. This new green space now motivates Green Corps teens to learn urban agriculture, business, nutrition, sustainability, and important workplace and social skills. Families can now spend wholesome summer days outdoors with their young children. On summer afternoons, up to 150 people enjoy the park: adults sitting in the shade of nearby trees, youngsters playing in the water, and 20 Green Corps teens and staff busy farming, working cooperatively, learning, and laughing. Many more birds and butterflies are now seen on this site, proving that productive green space can increase teen self-esteem, build community pride, and create new urban wildlife habitat.

SEEDS; First Place, $1,500
706 Gilbert St.
Durham, NC 27701
Contact: Kavanah Ramsier

SEEDS educates youth and adults through gardening, growing food, and cultivating respect for life, for the Earth and for each other. In 2007, SEEDS joined with the City of Durham, descendants of the Leigh family, and two local non-profit organizations to create a unique city park on an historic family farm. The entire parcel of land is more than 80 acres, but the core site managed by the city of Durham is seven acres and has eight historic buildings including original tobacco barns and curing houses, a dairy and a smokehouse. Tobacco, hay and cattle were raised on the land from the mid 1700s until the 1970s, when I-40 divided the original farm in half and threatened the future of the land with further development. 

SEEDS will preserve the farming history by returning two adjacent acres separated by a revolutionary war-era road into fruit, vegetable and flower production. One acre of the garden will be divided into community garden plots and is being designed in the shape of a labyrinth. The public will be invited to walk, wander and meditate on paths between curving garden beds that will be available to community members. 

The second acre will be an expansion of the Durham Inner-city Gardeners (DIG), a youth-driven, urban farming leadership development program that empowers teens by teaching organic gardening, sound business practices, healthy food choices and food security values. The youth will sell the produce they grow at their booth at the Durham Farmers Market, where they already sell produce they grow on their 1/4 acre inner-city market garden. In addition to the SEEDS gardens at Leigh Farm, there are environmental education day camps for children run by the Piedmont Wildlife Association, several miles of hiking trails through the woods and a frisbee golf course.

Gifford Park Community Garden; Second Place, $1,000
P.O. Box 31462
Omaha, NE 68131
Contact: Joy Doll

The mission of the Gifford Park Community Garden is to provide opportunities for people in the community to not only grow plants and vegetables but to grow personally and as a community through activities involving education, exercise, recreation, nutrition, conservation, art and cultural interaction. The objectives of the Gifford Park Community Garden Program are to: practice organic gardening principles, demonstrate practical spending of resources, meet community needs using member’s talents, teach and demonstrate good life skills through gardening, be inclusive with the belief that all people have something irreplaceable to give to and receive from the community at all stages of life, and celebrate community accomplishment regularly.

The Gifford Park Neighborhood that supports the Gifford Park Community Garden Program represents a diverse community within the city of Omaha including families of Hispanic background (12.5 percent), African American background (12.3 percent) and special populations including Somali refugees. The Gifford Park Community Garden’s Youth Garden and Teen Market Garden reach out to children, teens, and their families to teach safe and healthy growing techniques from choosing plants to harvest. The programs are sustained through neighborhood membership fees, donations, and the passion of many volunteers who understand the importance of teaching children about food. 

Gifford Park is a diverse community with a lower socioeconomic population. In a community such as this where both parents are working to sustain a household, teens do not often get the time and attention they need to be successful. In an effort to build the self-efficacy of preteens and teens, the Teen Market Garden Program addresses the following community needs: 1) Develop contributing members of society through learning to garden and manage a garden plot; 2) Develop knowledge of youth and teens about healthy living including food consumption and active living; 3) Increase youth self-efficacy through gardening and mentoring; and 4) Increase youth knowledge regarding environmental issues, where food comes from, money management, and future workplace skills.