Bringing community together to build healthier lifestyles
The Community Gardens have been a part of Findlay for almost nine years. In 2010, the United Way of Hancock County, in collaboration with the Community Foundation, the MENTOR Initiative, The Hancock County Sustainability Coalition, The Ohio State University Extension, the local Master Gardeners and the City of Findlay, sought, to fill a need brought on by the economic downcycle, to supplement food needs in our community. The result is the Community Gardens of Hancock County, whose mission is to “educate and equip individuals to be food secure and to work next to their neighbor in harmony.”
The Community Foundation leased the land free of charge, and a plot was put in at the Family Center on North Blanchard Street. The area surrounding the Family Center is a food desert, an area in which there is no or limited access to healthy, affordable foods, such as fruits, vegetables and other healthy, whole foods. The result of a lack of larger grocery stores within walking distance, a food desert results in dependency on convenience stores and drug stores for food.
How it works
In 2010, the Community Gardens started out with 24 plots. That has grown to 50-60 plots today. The Gardens are first come, first serve, but they have never had to turn anyone away. Families receiving any type of government assistance are given priority and, on average, 30-40% of the garden participants receive some type of assistance.
Plots cost $20, although the fee is waived if the applicant receives any type of assistance. At the end of the growing season, gardeners who clear their plots receive half of their deposit back. The Gardens provide tools and the first tilling and are open the first week of May until mid-October. Find an application, which can be printed or filled out online, on the website.
How It helps
The Community Gardens have been a source of a variety of positive experiences. The OSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteers have used them as a means of giving back and educating the community.
The local Master Gardeners have won the GrowOhio Award for most produce grown and collected the last two years, donating the food to those in need. The gardens have also been used to educate the community in food preservation, and working with gardeners on freezing and canning produce.
They have also provided mentoring opportunities and are used by homeschool groups and mental health groups. A local homeschool group won 3rd Place at the Ohio State Fair with produce grown there.
The Community Gardens of Hancock County exist to provide food security, but do much more than that by providing a platform for starting conversations about healthy habits, providing a constructive way to spend time and connecting those in our community.
To learn more about the Community Gardens of Hancock County or to fill out an application, visit their website at liveunitedhancockcounty.org/community-gardens, visit “Community Gardens of Hancock County” on Facebook or contact Heather Heilman, Community Impact Director at the United Way of Hancock County at 419-423-1432.