Grant will aid community garden

Register City Editor

Register/Bob Johnson
Jackie Koester tends vegetables in her plot at the Elm Creek Community Garden.

Monday afternoon Jackie Koester was cultivating cabbage, beets and other garden-fresh vegetables in a plot at the Elm Creek Community Garden.
She is one of 21 people who are tending 37 plots in the garden at the end of First Street. Just one plot remains available.
“I used to have a garden at home,” Koester said, but the community garden plots are more convenient because they are in ready-to-plant condition. A nearby shed also is furnished with tools and free water is supplied.
The success of the garden group has attracted a three-year $49,436 grant from the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City. Community garden members intend to use the money to increase the number of plots and make the gardening area more user-friendly to one and all.
“We want rich and poor, young and old, anyone, including people with physical handicaps, to enjoy the opportunity to have a garden,” said Val McLean, who with wife Carolyn developed the community garden concept.
Elm Creek Community Garden began in 2005 when the McLeans set aside a block they owned. The first vegetables were grown in 2006. The garden area weathered a flood-induced setback in 2007 but since then has done nothing but move forward.
“We’ve been blessed by people who have donated equipment, time and money to make the garden what it is today,” McLean said.
Exactly what the grant means for the garden won’t be known until the McLeans and board members meet with HCF personnel, perhaps as early as this week.
The grant application, done with the assistance of Thrive Allen County, proposed several things:
— A part-time coordinator to oversee, manage and instruct novice gardeners;
— Purchase of a tractor with mower and tiller;
— Seeds and plants to permit low-income residents to take advantage of plots;
— Additional water hydrants;
— Raised plots, which would permit wheelchair-bound and other handicapped people the opportunity to raise their own gardens;
— Additional top soil;
— Expansion of plots.
Each plot is 12 by 24 feet and rents for $20 a year. McLean said the intention was to make plots available to anyone, with financial considerations for people in low-income circumstances.
“I think we may be able to double the number of plots available by next year,” he said.