Community voice: Gardening project continues to grow in New Carlisle

With only two small grocery stores in New Carlisle, Western Clark County has become widely known as a food desert. And despite this area being mostly rural, it has also been difficult for a growing number of families to put fresh vegetables and fruits on their table.

Family & Youth Initiatives has helped residents overcome this challenge for over a decade through its Gardening For Health program. The program experienced “growing” success in 2018 under Master Gardener Missy Ritchie and is already poised to continue that growth in 2019.

Gardening For Health provides an all-organic community garden, offering plots to residents on which they can grow their very own vegetables. The use of a 12,000 square-foot plot of land, located behind FYI’s administrative office at 468 N. Dayton-Lakeview Rd. in New Carlisle, is donated annually by long-time community partner Scarff’s Nursery. Last year, 10 residents started plots and six saw the program through to the end of the growing season.

“One of the gardeners (last year) had little to no gardening experience and fell in love with gardening,” said Ritchie. “But her main motivation was the food service. She took her harvest and preserved it, then used it throughout the fall and all winter. She even learned how to grow, collect and preserve her own herbs. She basically went all in.

“She saved tons of money, but also since she grew it, she knew it was safe,” she added. “Now she is looking forward to getting started again this spring.”

“There is a lot of excitement, a lot of buzz,” said Ritchie. “I’m happy with the way things have started this season. After Mother’s Day, we’ll start planting, so there’s still plenty of time for others to join in.”

Those who participate in the community garden benefit not only from free fresh vegetables but also the exercise required to grow them. Participants get help choosing their veggies and the size of their plot as well as learn how to plant and cultivate the garden. They will also learn how to harvest, properly cook and preserve the veggies for use throughout the winter.