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Garden vision grows
Ag News - State Ag News
Saturday, 23 February 2013 23:29

Amy Bickel,The Hutchinson News, Kan. (MCT)

David Buckley sees beyond a barren plot of land, envisioning pumpkin patches and acres of potatoes, along with kids and families reaping the benefits.

And, in coming weeks, that image will become reality as the Community Agriculture Site program developed several years ago expands to a 225,000-square-foot area on 56th Avenue. 

It's the most recent expansion of community gardening in Reno County, with this empty area owned by a neighbor being transformed in coming weeks to a vegetable farm of sorts not far from the city limits.

Meanwhile, Buckley and CAS volunteers are also eyeing an empty lot near Lincoln School as another community/school garden site while city leaders express excitement about planting more urban gardens across Hutchinson.

Buckley, one of five Reno County Master Gardeners who started the CAS concept about seven years ago, met with Hutchinson's Community Improvement Commission last week to talk about the Lincoln School possibility and tell them about CAS. The Lincoln project is a garden they hope could be growing vegetables by summer 2014.

"We are strong advocates for community gardens," said city Planning and Development Director Nancy Scott, adding that her staff has attended several training session on the topic. "We think it is a real plus when we can have community gardens in our community. When we revised our zoning regulations, we made sure community gardens can be anywhere."

Already there is some work to transform vacant areas in the city to garden plots. Housing Director Irene Hart said she went on a NeighborWorks America-sponsored trip to Florida with a few community members in the Allen School area to learn more about the process.

The Allen-area group is waiting to hear back to see if they secured a grant for the community garden project.

Yet, it's not as simple as turning unused ground into a bountiful acreage, Hart noted.

"There has to be ownership there," she said.

Buckley agrees, noting that CAS doesn't work quickly, instead making sure there is support before any project begins. For instance, the group had considered moving from their smaller lot near 96th Avenue and Tobacco Road for a few years, but didn't because of the lack of volunteers to make a larger area work.

"If you don't have the community effort, it won't work," he said.

For now, he and other CAS staff will canvass the area to see if they will support the Lincoln School garden. Their plan is that once the garden has been established, they will turn it over to the community and school district.

Part of the Lincoln project land belongs to the city and would need to be deeded to the school district, said Hutchinson Community Development Specialist Ed Bible. He said Community Improvement Commission members would like the city to have a plan in place regarding water use/availability and urban gardening.

"This is something that is very welcomed to the community," Bible said, adding that the commission "did make a motion that we continue to research what the city could do to develop a policy to make it easier for these kinds of things to happen."


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