This year, Gardening Know How’s School and Community Garden Sponsorship Program was fortunate enough to help support 15 gardens with $1,000 each. These gardens represent a wide array of community and school programs, from Canada to Puerto Rico and many places in between. Each has its own unique and powerful story, and we’re excited to share them with you. Once a month we’ll highlight one of our sponsorship recipients to help spread the word about how amazing they really are. This month we’re featuring StarkFresh and their Turtle Park Food Production and Training Site.
StarkFresh is a two-person non-profit organization located in Canton, Ohio. While their organization may be small, Tom Phillips and Teresa Kaminski are working to make a big impact on Stark County by spreading education, empowerment, and healthy eating.
StarkFresh is responsible for several urban farming and community garden sites meant to combat Stark County’s severe food desert problem. Over the years, they have founded the Urban Teaching Farm, Herbruck Park, and Edible Park Oasis, notable for its former status as “the worst parking lot in Canton.” Each in its own way, the gardens and farms engage community members with the growing process and supply them with fresh produce.
One particular site, and the focus of the GKH Sponsorship, is the Turtle Park Food Production and Training Site. While this garden is staffed by employees and volunteers, it is also open to training and life skills programs. StarkFresh partners with an organization that provides stable housing for individuals with mental illness issues. Participants in this program work at the Turtle Park site planting indoor seeds and nurturing them until they’re ready to be transplanted. They then weed, water, and care for the plants all the way through harvest.
Last year, six participants from this organization worked at the garden learning soft skills and connecting with the gardening process. Two of those participants have already moved on to find full-time mainstream employment.
The bulk of the produce grown at Turtle Park goes to StarkFresh’s Veggie Mobile. This mobile farmer’s market makes 15 weekly stops for 17 weeks in a row, spreading fresh produce throughout the county’s food deserts. It’s especially geared toward low-income and low-mobility communities, accepting food stamps, incentivizing dollar for dollar up to $10 for SNAP recipients, and offering reduced prices.
With the help of Gardening Know How, StarkFresh hopes to prepare Turtle Park for its 2018 season, providing more job training and fresh produce to Stark County citizens in need. We’re so proud to be able to help them with this mission.