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Purdue Master Gardener Program Spotlight: Howard County Community Garden Receives National Award

Howard County Volunteers with National AwardThe Community Garden Project in Kokomo has received a national award as an Exemplary Community Service Program from the National Council for Continuing Education and Training (NCCET). The Community Garden Project was recognized out of hundreds of programs that were being considered for the award. Purdue Master Gardeners Ed Baker and Dave Mason traveled to Portland, Oregon to accept the award. In addition, the Community Garden Project also is the recipient of a Medallion Award for an Outstanding Community Service Project from the National Council of Marketing and Public Relations. The project was selected from entries that were submitted by community colleges in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Ontario.

Rollin Machtmes, former Howard County Purdue Extension Educator, had the vision of a community garden in Kokomo several years ago and began planting seeds for its inception. In the spring of 2003, a pilot program consisting of a partnership between Ivy Tech State College Kokomo, Purdue University - Howard County Extension and Purdue Master Gardeners from Howard County Master Gardeners Association, was established to create the Community Garden Project. Team leaders from each organization were selected to spearhead this initiative. The project team decided to plant a vegetable, herb garden and flower garden. Three Purdue Master Gardeners (Ed Baker, Dave Mason, and Cindy Rush) agreed to serve as directors for each garden.

The initial purpose of the gardens was two-fold: to supply fresh produce in support of various organizations in our community who feed the hungry and serve as live laboratories for free public seminars.

Volunteers planted the vegetables, tended the gardens, harvested the crops and delivered the produce. The Community Garden Project was a huge success in spite of flood damage that the region encountered in July 2003. Nearly 5,000 lbs. of produce was distributed in 2003 to nine community groups, which either re-distributed or used the produced in the preparation of meals. The non-project organizations benefited from receiving fresh produce of zucchini, peppers, squash, kohlrabi, cucumbers, cabbage, tomatoes, green beans, sweet corn, beets, carrots and onions.

This partnership has made a real difference in the lives of many people in our community who receive their services. Additionally, the lives of the volunteers who put in many "labor of love" hours were also changed by the experiences they had when delivering the fresh produce. Approximately 30 volunteers, including college staff, donated over 750 man-hours to the garden in 2003.

As the project's second year is completed, the community and its volunteers are to be commended. "This project would not be possible without the dedication of the Purdue Master Gardeners and the individuals who devoted literally hundreds of hours ot provide this important service to the community," said Chancellor Steve Daily.

More community involvement was obvious as community garden partners and volunteers celebrated a record harvest in 2004 with more than 21,000 lbs. of produce that was donated to local organizations. More than 1,375 hours (from 122 individuals) of service were donated to the Community Garden. If the value is figured at $10 per hour, the value of the service alone is more than $13,750!

The free public seminars and gardening courses associated with the garden project have been extremely successful. Interest sparked in the Community Garden has generated registrations from members of the community that the college had not reached prior to the project. Some of the classes and seminars offered were: Backyard Wildlife Habitat, All About Lavender, Home Composting, Basic Garden Class, Herbal Tea Gardens, Growing and Using Herbs, Rose Gardens, Water Gardens, Kitchen Gardening, Indiana Beekeeping School, Butterfly Gardening, 25 Annual Favorites, 25 perennial Favorites and Winter Sowing.

Sources:

Press Release 11/5/2004, Gwenn Speck (Director, Marketing and Communication, Ivy Tech State College Region 5)

Hungry tickled pink with garden produce (Tom Carey, Kokomo Tribune, 11/11/2004)

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