Early rains dampen output but persistence leads to nearly 7,000 pounds of food
KOKOMO, Ind. — Plagued by the rains that dampened all agricultural efforts in Indiana this year, the leaders of Kokomo’s Community Garden began the season with anxiety but not despair. After persevering through weeks of standing water and continuing to replant and nurture, the volunteers brought in nearly 7,000 pounds of produce for the area’s hungry.
Volunteers, donors and beneficiaries celebrated the effort Nov. 19 at the garden’s annual Harvest Celebration in the Kokomo Event & Conference Center.
Sarah McCormack, Community Garden coordinator, said the garden produced a total of 6,989.75 pounds of fresh vegetables for 12 local organizations that serve the hungry, bringing the total yield for the garden’s 13 years of raising produce to more than 97 tons.
“Given all the problems posed by Mother Nature this year, I think we all just wanted to beat our worst year on record, poundage-wise,” McCormack said. “We celebrated a bit when we moved past the season on the bottom of the list. This is still the second worst harvest on record, but it is so much better than we initially thought we would produce.”
The garden produced 28 different edibles – everything from acorn squash to zucchini – with totals that ranged from one pound of Brussel sprouts and 3.25 pounds of herbs and garlic to 634 pounds of corn, 1,098.5 pounds of tomatoes and 1,291 pounds of potatoes.
The 2015 harvest was made possible by volunteers who gave more than 1,266 hours of their time to make the Community Garden a success. Records kept since the garden’s first season in 2003 show that volunteers have donated nearly 17,800 hours over the 13 years.
“Our thanks go to the volunteers and our donors whose efforts make a significant difference in the lives of countless individuals in Howard County,” McCormack said. “The highlight of this somewhat dismal year was when one of our volunteers, Dr. Doug Eglan, installed the beautiful iron gate he had made for the garden over the winter.
“Not only does it shed a happy light on this slightly mediocre season,” she continued. “It is full of meaning and it honors the donors and volunteers who have worked the dirt so faithfully over the years to give to those who would not otherwise have access to fresh produce.”
McCormack noted 16 people each gave more than 25 hours in volunteer service to the garden this year. The top five were Tom Georges (163.5 hours), Bob Parks (155.25 hours). Larry Bills (141.5 hours), Doug Eglan (96.25 hours), and Emmy Wilson (69 hours).
Organizations that receive produce from the garden for distribution to the community’s hungry include Coordinating Assistance Ministries Inc. (CAM), Family Services Association Domestic Violence Shelter, The Gilead House, Hands of Grace, Howard Haven, Open Arms Women’s Shelter, Kokomo Rescue Mission, Salvation Army, Samaritan Love Center, Soul Food Café, St. Luke’s Food Pantry, and Urban Outreach.
The Community Garden also serves as an educational classroom for students, master gardeners and anyone interested in helping tend the garden. It is the result of a partnership between Ivy Tech Community College, the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service of Howard County and the Howard County Master Gardener Association. It is operated entirely on donations and the work of volunteers.
The idea for the garden came from Ivy Tech Chancellor Steve Daily and Purdue University Howard County Extension Educator Rollin Machtmes. It became a reality through a donation of land made by Ivy Tech supporters Don and Louise Thomas at the corner of Touby Pike and North Street. Garden volunteers have transformed the donated grassland into two acres of rich soil that produce thousands of pounds of fresh produce each year.
This was McCormack’s last season as the garden’s volunteer coordinator.
“I’m so glad I stumbled upon this gem in our great city,” she said. “The volunteers have been nothing but kind, welcoming and wonderful. I know that the Community Garden of Kokomo will continue to be an important way to fight hunger in our city.”
For additional information or an opportunity to support the Community Garden, contact Jeannie Vondersaar of the Purdue Extension office at firstname.lastname@example.org.