Community Garden volunteers, donors, beneficiaries celebrate 2017 harvest

Nearly 11,000 pounds of food distributed to area organizations to help needy

KOKOMO, Ind. — Undaunted by the heavy rains that poured on Indiana this spring and summer, volunteers for the Kokomo Community Garden brought in nearly 11,000 pounds of produce for the area’s hungry in 2017.

Volunteers, donors and beneficiaries celebrated the effort recently at the garden’s annual Harvest Celebration on the Kokomo campus of Ivy Tech Community College.

Larry Bills, Community Garden coordinator, said the garden produced a total of 10,737 pounds of fresh vegetables for 14 local organizations that serve the hungry, bringing the total yield for the garden’s 15 years of raising produce to more than 114 tons.

The garden produced 19 different edibles – everything from acorn squash to zucchini – with totals that ranged from 3.75 pounds of tomatillos and 8.75 pounds of herbs and garlic to 1,904 pounds of potatoes, 2,168 pounds of corn, and 2,447.5 pounds of tomatoes

The 2017 harvest was made possible by volunteers who gave more than 1,300 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 more than 20,900 hours over the 15 years.

Long-time volunteer and former garden coordinator Becky Swails emceed the celebration.

“We’ve had better seasons; the rains did have an impact,” Swails said, “but we are so grateful to the donors and volunteers who worked so hard to benefit our neighbors who would not otherwise have access to fresh produce.”

Swails noted 15 people each gave more than 25 hours in volunteer service to the garden this year. The top five were Larry Bills (147), Jeannie Gale (110 hours), Doug Eglen (100 hours), Bob Parks (94 hours), and Pat Renshaw (86 hours).

Organizations that receive produce from the garden for distribution to the community’s hungry include Bethel Church Pantry. Coordinating Assistance Ministries Inc. (CAM), Family Services Association Domestic Violence Shelter, The Gilead House, Hands of Grace, Howard Haven, Main Street United Methodist Church Pantry, Open Arms Women’s Shelter, Kokomo Rescue Mission, Salvation Army, Samaritan Love Center, St. Luke’s Food Pantry, St. Vincent DePaul Society, 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.

For additional information or an opportunity to support the Community Garden, contact Jeannie Vondersaar of the Purdue Extension office at jvonders@purdue.edu.

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About Ivy Tech Kokomo Region

Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo Region serves Cass, Fulton, Howard, Miami, and Tipton counties and includes campuses or instructional sites in the communities of Kokomo, Logansport, Peru, and Rochester. Ivy Tech serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering affordable degree programs and training that are aligned with the needs of its community along with courses and programs that transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association. For more information, visit www.ivytech.edu.
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