The Cincinnati Horticultural Society (CHS) cultivated thousands of vegetable gardeners this spring and summer through its new GROW program, which provided gardening kits for people of all walks of life.
Mary Kramer is the vice president of community development for the society, and she got to witness the excitement for the program firsthand as GROW handed out the kits. Each kit included a 5-gallon plastic nursery container, 16-quart potting mix and two types of crops: cole crops and summer vegetables.
Members of the CHS put the kits together, then traveled around the city to a wide variety of businesses and city locations like The Ronald McDonald House, Norwood Public Schools After School Program and The Fischer House for Veterans, among many other places. They helped participants plant up the containers, and gave them advice for growing. In June and early July, they returned to the same places to help them transfer into the summer vegetables.
"It has been very, very positive," Kramer says of the response. "We were intending to reach approximately 5,000 people in this first year, and we achieved that. For every pot we put out there, there’s a family gardening together; a classroom gardening together."
Though the program occurred during the height of the veggie craze this year, it’s been a labor of love for CHS President Mary Margaret Rochford for many years. "For years she had this vision to introduce home veggie gardening to people to see how easy it is, and see how much better the homegrown veggies taste," Kramer says.
"You don’t need a big plot of land to enjoy veggie gardens."
The plan for next year is to reach 10,000 people and increase the program to include corporations as a health benefit. The GROW program is funded in part by a variety of local foundations, as well as donations from sponsor partners like Fafard, Horan, Livingston Seed, Nursery Supplies, Floranova, Willoway Nurseries, Rookwood and the Scripps-Howard Foundation.
The GROW program could be done in other cities across the country, and Kramer says she would love to help others set up a similar program. To reach Mary Kramer for more information, call her at 513-872-9555, extension17 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.