While some might caution, “you can’t have too much of a good thing,” the Kansas Health Foundation is choosing to infuse almost $50,000 additional dollars to fund a bumper crop of exceptional Kansas Community Garden Grant applications.

While some might caution, “you can’t have too much of a good thing,” the Kansas Health Foundation is choosing to infuse almost $50,000 additional dollars to fund a bumper crop of exceptional Kansas Community Garden Grant applications.

With 2013 the second year of a three-year $100,000-per-year grant effort to encourage developing community gardens and teaching gardening skills, the foundation is awarding $147,004 to fund 35 grants, said Evelyn Neier, a horticulturist and K-State Research and Extension 4-H youth gardening specialist serving as the state coordinator for the community garden grants.

In 2012, the first year the grants were offered, 24 gardens were funded, said Neier, who noted the 2013 selection committee is “delighted with the increased interest, and pleased to expand funding to develop gardens in cities and towns with varying populations in many areas of the state.”

Neier said Kansas communities and community groups are invited to submit grant applications for up to $5,000 toward the start-up costs for community garden site preparation; installation of water wells and irrigation lines; tools; storage sheds and other miscellaneous expenses in establishing a community garden.

With physical activity known to promote health, and gardening considered a potential lifetime interest, Neier said the goal for the grant effort is to provide — and encourage — educational opportunities for residents of all ages to grow their knowledge about gardening by learning how to prepare the soil, plant seeds, tend plants, weed, water, harvest, and add fresh, health-promoting fruits and vegetables to meals and snacks.

The process also is expected to build community, she said.

“Kansas Health Foundation funding will allow us to expand the garden and teach a greater number of people about gardening,” Rick Miller, grant coordinator for the Community Garden at the Center of Grace in Olathe said.

Miller, who noted this garden is attracting many families who are new to the Kansas City area and new to the U.S., said it is encouraging to see families working side-by-side in the garden, and to watch them grow as they learn more about food and how it grows, nutrition and health while also meeting others who are choosing to make their home in the area.

Clelia McCrory, who assisted Lyons USD 405 in writing the grant to establish the Lyons School Community Garden, is enthusiastic about community gardens, referencing a new generation of people who may have missed lessons about gardening and its benefits from their parents and grandparents.
Community collaborators for the USD 405 grant include The First Christian Church, Rice Healthcare Foundation, and Rice County K-State Research and Extension Office, and mentors from Sterling, who achieved success with a Kansas Health Foundation Community Garden Grant in 2012.

Libby Oberdorf, pastor of the Williamsburg United Methodist Church submitted a successful 2013 grant application for a Williamsburg Community Garden in cooperation with the city and elementary school.

She expressed the hope establishing a community garden will bring young families who are new to the community together with older (and longtime) residents, including many who no longer have a connection with the schools.

Oberdorf, who offered the backyard of the parsonage as a location for a community garden to grow produce for garden members and the church’s food pantry, reported the new garden also is adjacent to the community library.

“We’re already growing,” she said. “At the time we applied for the grant, the local library had one book on gardening … well, actually, on landscaping.

“As we’ve worked through the grant process, excitement in the community continues to grow. The library has purchased more gardening books and others in the community have donated books; the latest count in the gardening section is around 25,” Oberdorf said.

Successful grant applicants represent a cross-section of the population and include educational and community groups and collaborative community partners who share a desire to improve community health and build community, Neier said.

The local recipients of the 2013 Kansas Health Foundation community garden grant recipients are

Lindsborg: Bethany College Green Team, Bethany College Community Garden.Moundridge: Sharing and Caring Community Garden, Newton Church of the Brethren.