Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

May 23, 2013

Community garden hoping to sow seeds of self-sufficiency

Brent Brown
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — Oris Reece believes in the old adage that “teaching a man to fish” is a far better option than simply giving him (or her) one.

It was a bit of that philosophy that sprouted an idea in the Agape Center President’s mind — one intended to help those in need help themselves.

Fortunately, Reece’s idea was shared by a pair of Greensburg Rotary Club members who’d pondered nearly the exact same thing. Rotary Club President Jeff Emsweller and member Bryan Robbins met with Reece and soil specialist Marty Miller recently at the Greensburg-Decatur County Chamber of Commerce to pool ideas for a community garden aimed at putting the proverbial fishing pole in the hands of those who need it most: The county’s many financially struggling families.

Reece’s work as a board member of the local branch of Habitat for Humanity allowed him to also find the perfect location for the not-so-secret garden: The yard behind a Scoby Street home recently demolished by Habitat members and volunteers.

That yard, which is located at 212 Scoby Street, is now set to become fertile ground intended as much for those born with “green thumbs” as those who’ve never planted a seed in their lives. The folks who will benefit the most, however, are those with the desire to harvest food for themselves, perhaps negating the possibility a struggling family will go hungry.

And that’s precisely the point of the project.

“It’s a universal good,” Robbins said. “You’re reusing a previously damaged property.”

The community garden will offer several 10 x 20’ plots of land ready to bear nearly all manner of vegetables, all at no cost for those using it. Planting the seeds of whatever would-be foods one would like, the gardeners will tend their crops and even receive tips on how best to do so. Reece has also offered his personal tiller for public use if need be, and water donated by the city of Greensburg will be on site. The only tool needed for individual gardeners, Reece said, is a simple garden hoe.

Should the need arise, a second location at 361 South Franklin Street is anticipated to be used for the same purpose as its Scoby counterpart. Bryan Robbins, who also serves as director of Main Street Greensburg, envisions a future where such gardens are spread throughout the Tree City, bringing the community together via a task modern times have rendered far less necessary than it once was.

“We’re putting in what is essentially an urban park or green space,” Robbins told the Daily News. “You’ll be able to use some skills, feed some folks, and help promote gardening, farming and self-sufficiency. It’s a really good project and we hope it expands.”

Reece said the Agape Center will help in the selection process of who can receive a garden plot, while others struggling — essentially for any reason — may contact him or Robbins in an effort to take part.

Expectations for those involved are relatively few as well.

“We expect them to plant what they want to plant and keep it weeded,” Reece said Wednesday.

But as those who enjoy gardening are likely aware, the work involved isn’t something that can be accomplished overnight.

“It’s a long-term commitment to help improve the community,” Emsweller said earlier this month, ensuring those involved have ensconced themselves in the project for the long haul. They’re also active in acquiring the funds needed to get this “growing” project going.

The funds to get the project off the ground come from various organizations, but Emsweller and Robbins’ involvement in Rotary Club initiatives has been integral in sowing the community garden’s seeds. And while there is still much work to be done, Emsweller, Robbins and Reece all believe far more will be garnered from the garden than batches of fresh tomatoes.

“We’re hoping to grow a relationship among community members,” Reece said.

Those relationships may be helped by the installation of picnic tables at the garden site, allowing participants to rest in the shade after a day’s worthwhile toil in the sun. Elevated gardens implemented by Robbins will also expand the opportunity to those who may have mobility or other physical issues that would make a standard plot more difficult to tend.

With the community garden project essentially ready to go, all that remains now is finding the necessary folks willing to take part.

Interested individuals may contact Oris Reece at 812-593-3092, the Greensburg Agape Center at 812-222-4273, Bryan Robbins at 812-593-4207, or Jeff Emsweller (via the Chamber of Commerce office) at 812-663-2832.

Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056