We’re not going to jinx ourselves by saying that winter is over, but we’re hoping the last of the snow has already melted for this season. The warmer weather has us eager to start our gardens, and the prospect of fresh, delicious produce chock full of nutrients and self-sufficiency is pretty exciting. For those of us who don’t want to till up our back yards, community gardens offer both access to ground and a way to repurpose what would otherwise be vacant lots.
If you’re up for the challenge, the community garden at the Illinois State Fairgrounds is a good place to start. Run by the Illinois Department of Agriculture and located inside the southern end of the fairgrounds’ race track, the garden offers tools, seeds, fertilizer and plenty of friendly folks who are happy to help beginners learn the ropes. For more information, visit agr.state.il.us/garden or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a garden that is located in a community, check out the Neighborhood Gardens located at the Springfield Art Association in the Enos Park neighborhood. It’s run by Kumler Outreach Ministries, the Enos Park Neighborhood Association, and the art association. Cory Blackwell, minister of outreach at Kumler, says the garden’s goals are to create a space where people can come together, teach people how to grow their own food, and increase access to fresh produce. The garden offers personal plots and a communal plot, and they’re hoping to create a second, larger garden nearby. For more information, call Blackwell at 523-2269 or email email@example.com.
Another option is the Springfield Urban Garden, run by the genHkids Coalition. Located at 2400 E. Cook St., the garden is getting upgraded with raised beds and an irrigation system for the 2014 growing season. Seeds are provided on a first-come basis, and tools are available for working the plots. George Sinclair, garden educator for genH, says the garden is all organic with no pesticides or herbicides. “We’re trying to be as local as possible,” Sinclair said. “We really encourage people in that neighborhood to participate with us.” GenH also works with several schools to provide community gardens for students and their families. For more information, contact genH at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Springfield Community Garden Family Fit Center offers several learning experiences and even wheelchair accessibility. For more information, contact Vera Garrett at email@example.com.