• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Community Garden provides access to fresh produce

Seeds were first planted in the Woodford County Community Garden this past spring, and the efforts of its gardeners and community partners were applauded during a celebration alongside growing flowers, herbs and vegetables on the grounds of Margaret Hall Manor last Wednesday, July 11.

Produce harvested from the Community Garden will provide homegrown ingredients for meals to feed the families of gardeners, who may also share some of their bounty with senior citizens and the Food Pantry for Woodford County, according to Kelly Lariscy, community developer for Blue Grass Community Action Partnership in Woodford County.

“We have lots of tomatoes – lots of big green tomatoes. We’re waiting for those to go red and they will soon,” Lariscy said. She described the Woodford County Community Garden as a way for local families to access fresh, organic food.

“One thing I learned at a young age (growing up on a farm in Scott County),” said Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles, “is that food is one of the few things that bring people together every day...”

Because one in six Kentuckians and one in five Kentucky school children suffer from food insecurity, Quarles described community gardens as a way to help feed those families and also give them an opportunity to learn about where their food comes from.

“This is a very good garden. It’s better than mine at home. And it’s a labor of love,” Quarles told those gathered for last week’s program at the Woodford County Community Garden. “It doesn’t matter if you’re farming a flower bed or a large farm,” he added, “… farming is a lot of effort.”

The Woodford County Community Garden was sponsored by the Blue Grass Community Action Partnership, which will have community gardens in all nine counties that the agency serves by year’s end, according to its Executive Director Troy Roberts. He said the community garden initiative began as a pilot project in Mercer County last year.

“Head Start families, they learned how to grow some of their own vegetables. They learned how to prepare them. They learned how to eat healthy on a budget… So this is a win-win for everybody,” said Roberts during last week’s celebration.

Quarles pointed out that Kentucky “wisely set aside money” from its tobacco settlement dollars to help diversify agriculture and support an array of initiatives, including community gardens to help educate Kentuckians about agriculture.

“We have 10 total plots (this year)… and we anticipate for this garden to grow bigger and bigger each year,” said Lariscy. “It’s been such a success and I would love to see it become a really big community garden – much bigger than it is right now.”

Versailles City Councilmember Ann Miller, who coordinated local outreach efforts, said manpower and equipment provided by the City of Versailles helped make the Woodford County Community Garden possible.

“We wouldn’t be able to do this if it wasn’t for our partners,” said Lariscy. Other partners in this effort included the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension, Woodford Feed, Palumbo Lumber and Franklin Asset Management Company.

“I do believe it’s important to understand the historical significance of any project, and in this particular project it sits on a property that has a long history of community service,” said Miller, regional property manager for Franklin Asset Management. The company manages Margaret Hall Manor, a financially-subsidized apartment complex for the elderly and disabled established in the early-1900s as an Episcopal boarding school for girls. The community garden is located where field hockey was played, Miller added.

Bluegrass Community Action was created by the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 to fight the war on poverty, Roberts said. He said the agency operates the Woodford County Seniors Citizens Center and adult day program, Head Start preschool program and a community development office that provides assistance to local families.

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