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New Pure Farmland Grants Help Two Greater Cincinnati Community Gardens Bloom in Walnut Hills and Covington, in Cincinnati Food News

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Melrose Foraging Forest in Walnut HillsPhoto: Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation

Two Greater Cincinnati community gardens have a few more resources, thanks to recent grant wins.

Melrose Foraging Forest in Walnut Hills and Redden Gardens in Covington each earned $1,000 through grants from Pure Farmland’s Pure Project Growth initiative. The grantwinners — all community gardens and farms — were announced in an Aug. 16 press release.

Though the grants aren’t earth-shattering amounts, they’ll bolster the projects that Cincinnati gardens already have in the works to bring affordable, sustainable food to the region, especially to those who might not otherwise have access.

Gary Dangel, food access coordinator for the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, tells CityBeat that Melrose Foraging Forest will use the Pure Farmland grant to “purchase and install more fruit trees, berry bushes, medicinal and culinary herbs, a perennial pollinator habitat, and garden signage.” Melrose Foraging Forest is one of eight gardens in the urban agriculture network in Walnut Hills, Dangel says in an email.

“The Melrose Foraging Forest will be producing apples, pears, cherries, peaches and pawpaws as well as goji berries, currants and strawberries. The idea is for everyone, regardless of their financial situation, to have access to free nutritious food,” he says.

The project donates most of its produce to Queen City Kitchen, La Soupe and church-based food programs, he adds.

“The amount we sell to local restaurants or at pop-up farmer’s markets does not nearly cover the cost of our soil, water, seedlings, compost and labor. So we rely on grant funding and a volunteer workforce to grow food for residents living in the Walnut Hills food desert,” Dangel says. “As we grow these healthy fruits and veggies, we also grow meaningful relationships with our neighbors.”

Brian Goessling, founder of Redden Gardens, also is looking forward to expanding projects with the Pure Farmland grant. He says that Redden will use the funds for educational signage within and near the garden.

“This will include information about topics such as chickens, beehives, composting, rainwater retention, pollinators/pollinator-friendly plants, and growing tips and tricks. It will serve to tell the story passively of what we are doing and why we are doing it,” Goessling tells CityBeat via email. “We hope that people in the community can take these principles and use them in their own homes or lives. It is another way we can reach the community efficiently by providing this self-guided tour.”

Found on Scott Boulevard in Covington, Redden Gardens rents plots of land to local urban farmers while also providing the community with free-for-the-picking fruits, vegetables and flowers outside its fences. Goessling says that Redden Gardens also has launched “Covunity Fridge,” where locals can stock or use fresh food, hygiene products, cold and hot water, and a microwave.

Goessling and Dangel each say that grants are vital to urban agriculture efforts.

“Grant programs like these help communities thrive because they allow us to implement creative solutions to our own needs. Last year with The Center for Great Neighborhoods, the money supplemented other funds for an extension of our victory gardening program, which brings raised beds and container gardens directly to people’s homes,” Goessling says.

Both Dangel and Goessling are looking to expand their gardens’ programs in the future, ultimately connecting even more Greater Cincinnati residents with food, knowledge and connections.

“We are looking to bring the community in through communal events, focusing on food and storytelling, and further educational programming. We would love to strengthen the bonds and knowledge sharing of our gardening groups and tie this to the community as a whole,” Goessling says.

Dangel also is looking to connect community members with each other.

“Turning the green space into a sustainable community area where people can safely meet outside for positive interactions is on our wishlist,” he says. “We’ve been hosting a weekly nature enrichment activity with youth and counselors from Found Village. We also want to expand the outdoor space to conduct classes on medicinal plants and edible landscapes.”

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