Aug. 7 Veggie Tour offers view of 16 community gardens

From press release

From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 7, the public is invited to take a free (self-guided) Veggie Tour of the community vegetable gardens. By visiting only 16 of the sites, visitors can witness a unique pilot program in action and see examples of many different types of gardens representing 37 neighborhood organizations. Gardeners are eager to show people their gardens and tell the stories of what makes them special.

These vegetable gardens are as different as the individuals or groups who support them and the purposes for which they are intended. Community vegetable gardens have been created by neighborhood groups in such diverse locations as neighborhood plots, elementary schools, a senior facility, land donated by faith-based organizations, and residential facilities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Information about the community gardens open for viewing Aug. 7, and maps can be found on the website The Veggie Tour includes the following:

1. Alpine Ridge, 316 Wood Road, Rockford

2. Churchill’s Grove/Lawn Place Garden, lot at 995 N. Main St., Rockford

3. Ellis Heights United Neighborhood Center, 1810 W. State St., Rockford

4. Garden of Glory, lot at 725 N. Winnebago St., Rockford

5. The Itty Bitty Garden, 1702 Tacoma Ave., Rockford

6. Jeremiah’s Garden, southeast corner of Park Avenue and Court Street, Rockford

7. LSSI, Blackhawk Buddy House, lot at 1417 Meadow Court, Rockford

8. Mosaic Edelweiss, 2708 Edelweiss Road, Rockford

9. Mosaic Hampshire, 4908 Hampshire Close, Rockford

10. ORCHiD, lot at 723/727 S. Third St., Rockford

11. St. Bridget’s Angel Food Garden, 600 Clifford Ave., Loves Park

12. Signal Hill, lot at northwest corner of North Church and Salem, Rockford

13. Spring Brook/RVC, 6425 Spring Brook Road, Rockford

14. SWIFTT/Tinker Swiss Cottage, 411 Kent St., Rockford

15. Tullock’s Woods, 4500 Stagecoach Trail, Rockford

16. Zion Development, lot north of the northwest corner of Fifth Street and Fifth Avenue, Rockford

Cyndie Hall, director of Neighborhood Network, said: “The Veggie Tour will give people the opportunity to visit some of the community gardens and celebrate our success. Neighborhood Network seeks to provide technical assistance, resources and training to assist neighborhoods, and the Community Garden project fits right in our mission as these gardens bring people together to improve their communities and themselves.”

Community gardens are a part of a Healthy Community Project, a project that includes 39 gardens in both Winnebago and Boone counties. The community gardens offer the following benefits:

→ They provide fresh, affordable, wholesome, locally-grown vegetables for the gardeners, volunteers and neighbors, and to area food pantries. Nutrition is so important to us all, but especially in raising healthy children, and too many families in the Rockford area can’t afford or don’t have access to fresh vegetables. Some of the gardens donate all of their produce, but all of these community gardens participate in the Plant A Row for the Hungry. Last year, area gardeners produced more than 18 tons of food for area pantries. Jeff White, Master Gardener with the University of Illinois Extension-Winnebago, explained this new program should help to reach the goal for this year of 20 tons of food for area pantries. Some gardens also hope to be able to take their produce to sell at local farmers’ markets as well, with profits to go toward neighborhood group sustainability.

→ Community gardens encourage healthy lifestyles. Gardening can be hard, physical work, but children and adults alike see the benefits when the vegetables are ready to pick. People who have never eaten vegetables like green beans, broccoli or okra are willing to try what they themselves have worked so hard to grow. Eating healthy and exercising become habits within entire families.

→ A green thumb was not necessary to start with; people are learning the sustainable skills of growing food. The University of Illinois Extension-Winnebago and area Master Gardeners provided a series of classes in planning and planting, weeds and pests, and preserving produce. Master Gardeners worked with many of the sites, and additional assistance is also being provided by Gardeners of America and Men’s Garden Club of America-Rockford.

→ Community gardens serve to remove blight and create beauty. Volunteers turned often neglected or underused property into carefully-tended community vegetable gardens. The City of Rockford also provided rain barrels to the city gardens to lower water costs and capture runoff.

→ Community gardens are becoming a focus by bringing people together to improve their communities and themselves. The best ways to get to know someone is to work next to them, overcome obstacles, achieve success—and share different food during celebrations. Those skills and friendships enable and empower people to tackle other projects, and grassroots change continues. Healthy neighborhoods are created by the neighborhood organizations and the individuals who make change happen.

The City of Rockford Human Services Department has been a key partner in the project by providing funding and grant management.

Jennifer Jaeger, Community Services director for City of Rockford Human Services, said, “We are excited to celebrate the success of these gardens in addressing nutrition opportunities in neighborhoods as well as the amazing job they’ve done in using their gardens as a way to make their neighborhoods more attractive and to encourage community participation.”

From the Aug. 4-10, 2010 issue

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