4th Street Farms Wins Award

The Growing to Green Awards honor the dedication and hard work of many central Ohio communities and individuals
while furthering Growing to Green’s objective of promoting participation in city beautification and community gardening.

The Growing to Green Awards provide an excellent opportunity to have garden projects recognized for its contributions to the Columbus Community. Garden Award categories include Community, Educational, Youth, Neighborhood Beautification, and Sustainability. Another award that identifies the importance of area gardeners is the Community Gardener of the Year Award honoring the exceptional efforts of a gardener for his/her dedication to their gardening projects and as a role model for other Columbus community gardeners.

We are truly honored and excited to announce that 4th Street Farms has won the 2012 Franklin Park Conservatory Growing to Green Neighborhood Beautification Award!

Our goals for the 4th Street Farms project were to transform a vacant lot on 4th Street near 8th Ave into a vibrant garden, eat the food, donate 10% to St. Sophia Community Outreach, and stay friends. Those who work in the garden, eat its produce.  10% of produce is donated to St. Sophia’s Outreach Ministries which feeds 40 people in the morning and 75 people in the evening with a weekly Friday night Pizza Night that attracts over 100 people.  At St. Sophia’s, all adults work in the Peace Garden or the kitchen in exchange for food, children are fed for free. Our mission is Eat! Educate! Empower! Employ!

Weinland Park is a transitional urban neighborhood. 8th Ave and 4th Street are a central part of the Short North history of poverty, crime, drugs, prostitution, and gang activity. As part of collaboration with the Civic Association and a coalition of stakeholders, our neighborhood is implementing the Neighborhood Plan, which is transforming our community in housing, education, employment, youth, and safety.

We are neighbors collaborating with businesses and community organizations, as well as co-investigators in the MORPC Weinland Park Community Challenge Grant, which brings together Local Matters, The Ohio State University Knowlton School of Architecture, OSU Extension, CEGI, and others, serving the people of Weinland Park by building sustainable local food systems.

Additionally, as part of a team including Diversified Data, Integrity Sustainability Planning and Design, Mad Scientist, and FLOW (Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed), 4th Street Farms is presenting at the 2012 International EcoSummit as 1 of only 20 workshops. Our work in Weinland Park is around sustainable design & planning, housing, employment, education, and urban agriculture. The housing on 4th Street & 8th Avenue will be equipped with rain gardens and bioswales, as well a rain barrels, education for homeowners, art, and paid maintenance through 2013.

At 4th Street Farms we value organic, sustainable, and permaculture practices that bring education, healthy foods, safety, and a gateway to opportunities. We have built partnerships with the Godman Guild, New Directions, IPSC, and many other organizations to tap resources, provide referrals, and expand our capacity to make a difference.

We had many challenges getting started and continue to face on-going challenges the largest of which have been environmental and organizational. We have found our solutions in collaboration.

• In an urban environment, like ours, we started with an arsoned vacant lot, which raised concerns about lead and asbestos. Additionally, we are close to 3 very toxic brownfield sites; two of which are in the process of being cleaned up. The soil the city had used to fill in the vacant lot was of unknown origin. We partnered with MORPC and FLOW to get soil testing. We also sought donations from Wagenbrenner Corporation and Local Matters to bring in new soil. The soil was much appreciated but unfortunately the soil from Kurtz Brothers had not fully finished composting and was low in available nutritional content, which caused some production problems. We’ve spent a good bit of energy remediating the soil with organic methods from composting to cover crops. We will continue to test and amend the soil.

•While soil and remnant of archeology (like stray sidewalks or rock gardens) continue to challenge us, water has been an equally dogged issue. In 2011 it seemed like it would never stop raining and in 2012 it has been the drought. From the beginning, we’ve been aiming to get off the grid. In the meantime, we’ve run hoses from nearby houses. Now, with the help of volunteers and grant funding, we’ve got tanks, permission, and buried slow drip lines. Getting the right volunteer’s time to get tanks hooked up remains one of our challenges.

•Balancing our commitment to Weinland Park and goals that others project on us has proved challenging. Similarly, in such a transitional neighborhood where so many face such deep challenges, we are doing all we can, but it can some days feel like bailing out the Titanic with a Sippy cup. Other days you get to meet new people in the garden, from young to older folks, and provide some positive community engagement.

•Grants and resources move on different time lines than agriculture and community needs. In a community where median income is around $15,000, it is challenging to manage resources and needs.

Positively Impact:

•We touch many, if only as they pass through the garden or travel down the street. Transforming a vacant overrun lot into a vibrant garden of fruit trees, murals, luscious herbs, and flowers at the corner of 8th & 4th offers hope for even the most desolate & violent places. As the owner of the house right next to the D&J, the Cornerstore at 8th & 4th, notes, “Standing in this garden is the safest I’ve ever felt in Weinland Park in 36 years.”

•We’ve gotten to know more of our neighbors and they us. We provide a gathering place for the neighborhood.

•We’ve ensured green space in the central neighborhood and, thinking in the long term, we have planted fruit trees and berries.

•We’ve shared herbs, flowers, fruits, and stories with a community that mostly sees neon ices, Doritos, and Orange Cheese Puffs as real food.

•We will soon install our sign/kiosk along with other signage that will empower us to reach more people and be more visible as an organization.

•We’ve paved the way for the development of the Bird Sanctuary on 5th and the Indianola-Euclid Garden, as well as forging collaboration between organizations and community members.

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