Grace Community Garden
Reaching out to Johnson County's growing Hispanic community has been a focus of the Extension community development program since the early 2000’s. Building the relationships to make that happen has taken time, though. Over the past several years, Extension Agent Rick Miller has been attending monthly Hispanic task force meetings to learn about the community and organizations who work with them. The idea of a community outreach garden was brainstormed at one of the community development program development committee (PDC) meetings and later brought forth at one of the monthly Hispanic taskforce meetings. The Center of Grace, through a staff member with their ESL program showed interest.
In the wet spring of 2010, a small plot of ground was worked and a number of small parcels were marked off for individual plots. The addition of two well-trained Extension Master Gardeners helped to ensure an enthusiastic start, and with contacts through the Center of Grace, several Hispanic families planted their first seeds. The garden not only grew tomatoes, peppers and onions that first year, but new relationships as well.
Over the preceding five years, the garden has expanded twice to accommodate interest and now includes 27 raised beds, a water hydrant inside the fenced garden area, a small shed for storing tools and supplies, and three picnic tables fashioned out of recycled plastics to accommodate learning sessions and a place to rest.
In addition to individual garden plots, several spaces are reserved for a communal garden in which vegetables are shared with the Grace Community Church through their monthly community dinners. Participants for the garden plots come from all backgrounds with several from Mexico and South America. But diversity abounds with gardeners from Iraq and China, too.
Through a grant with Johnson County Extension Education Foundation, signage was obtained to identify the community garden.