A Teaching Garden is Born
While many of us live with at least enough luxury to take fresh food for granted, there are others not as fortunate.
Mansfield's North End is designated by the USDA as a Fresh Food Desert. This means that within a certain distance, usually a mile, there are no stores that sell fresh produce. That may not seem like a big deal to some of us, but for others, it's huge.
Imagine that you live in such an area, and have no vehicle. The buses in this area run on a limited schedule. If you want to shop, you must time your trip within certain hours, or walk to the nearest store. Those nearby stores, however, sell plenty of chips and soda, and maybe a gallon of milk and loaf of bread if you are lucky, but no fresh food. No apples or bananas for snacking. Nothing for a salad.
People cannot eat healthy if their only available choices are anything but.
The Blust Avenue Teaching Garden is an initiative by the North End Community Improvement Collaborative. It's the goal of NECIC's Blust Avenue Teaching Garden to teach people of all ages to grow their own food in an urban setting, to increase fresh food availability in a fresh food desert, to beautify vacant lots, and to connect residents of the North End community.
The project began in 2013, as NECIC began acquiring property on Blust Avenue.
The abandoned homes were torn down by the City of Mansfield and the Land Bank. NECIC purchased the first of what would be three total properties in 2013, but didn't obtain the last two until June of 2015.
Even though the homes were gone, a lot of cleanup work still remained to be done. Not only was there plenty of brush and overgrown areas to clean out, there was all the litter that came with it.
Community volunteers came together to assist in the cleanup as well as the building of raised beds and initial planting in June of this year. Mansfield's own 179th Airlift Wing spent Earth Day working on the site, and local school children contributed time, energy, and a lot of enthusiasm.
A hoop house was added for season extension, and a fence for safety of little ones during classes.
Produce from the garden was sold at the 2015 NECIC North End Farmers Market, donated to volunteers and to members of the community.
The Teaching Garden is still a work in progress, with many plans for the upcoming season. Be sure to check back here regularly for updates, some how-to tips, and garden ideas. Feel free to make requests of things you'd like to see at the market, or classes you'd like to attend in the garden! The community is what this is all about!