Seeds Sown- (Exciting New Partnership Details Enclosed)

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Introductions-I thought I’d do a little garden “selfie” to introduce ourselves. That’s me in the middle, Olivia, DIGG’s new Executive Director. Mike, our Farm Manager and “Garden Guru” is on the right. Loddie, on the left, is our Garden Right-Hand (Wo)Man. Sue, our Board President who works extremely hard for us, is sitting this one out (she doesn’t like having her photo taken).

In the Garden- We have been busy bees lately tilling and planting. This picture was taken last week after spending a morning away from the desk, enjoying the sunshine, and planting 122 eggplants, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and kohlrabi. Are you jealous yet? Being in the great outdoors was such a treat. The next day we planted 60 big beef and 25 yellow pear tomatoes at a different garden. Our growers are ramping things up at their gardens too. Last week they planted snap peas, tomatoes, squash, rhubarb, kale, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, beets, and a few others.

In the office-We are hard at work in the office as well, getting started with an exciting new collaboration with The Good Samaritan Inn. If you are unfamiliar with them, take a look at their website www.goodsamaritaninn.org. They have a wonderful job skills training program called Mercy Kitchens, which trains interested individuals in the skills necessary to obtain a job in the hospitality/food service industry.

We have been in intense conversation and planning with their Executive Director, Rev. Stacey Brohard, to expand the program into more of a farm to fork operation. More specifically, we plan to work together to build gardens on both of their unused lots. One lot will be an interpretive garden and the other will be more production-based. The goal of the interpretive garden will be to really highlight innovative ideas that solve space, soil, water, and money issues by using vertical gardening techniques and as many recycled materials as possible. The goal of the production garden will be to put those techniques to the best use possible and create a model that can easily be replicated.

Through our collaboration, along with the help of D & O Construction, the Mercy Kitchens project will expand to train the jobless and disadvantaged skills in: gardening, landscaping, construction, marketing, sales, and interpretation. We expect to continue planning and grant-writing this year and get started in a more tangible way in 2015. We are so thrilled about this opportunity to show the community what can be done with just a few vacant lots. Hint- it involves jobs creation, beautification, and an increase in local & sustainably raised food!

If you are interested in getting more involved with our organization in any capacity please consider coming to one of our weekly meetings Thursdays at 1:30pm at the historic Culver House on 412 W. Prairie Decatur, IL. Or shoot us an email at info@decaturdigg.org.

Get out and play in the dirt!

8 Things We Do & Reasons Why We DIGG It!

Welcome to Decatur Is Growing Gardeners (DIGG)’s blog! In short, we are a non-profit urban gardening organization housed in Decatur, IL. We realize that some residents of Macon County, and certainly non-resident readers, may be unfamiliar with what it is that we do. This blog is our way of reaching out to let you know what we are doing, what we think is exciting, what’s on the horizon, and to share ideas! You can expect us to post recipes, gardening tips, relevant law updates, gardening lesson plans for kids, all incorporated within organizational updates. This first post will allow you to “meet” us. 

So, without further adieu….

8 Things We Do & Reasons Why We DIGG It! (and there is certainly a lot to DIGG)

1. Creating Jobs For Disadvantaged Peoples

  • Instead of just having our own urban farms or community gardens, we focus on giving low-income, disadvantaged peoples an opportunity to make some extra money for themselves. Citizens of Macon County can enter into a “grower” relationship with us in which there is an exchange of plants, training, use of tools & venues to sell on our side for a small portion of the profits from produce sales on the grower’s side. And in this economy and town, where so many companies have left their long-time workers without jobs, we can all get on board with a little jobs creation!

2. Improving Nutrition

  • Our growers cultivate an appreciation for healthy produce by growing it themselves. And much of the food they grow goes to their own dinner tables. Our market booths always accept WIC checks and because we realize that transportation to some markets might be an issue, we have a market set up directly in front of the local health department where WIC checks are picked up. In these ways we are bringing nutritious and fresh food to more tables around Macon County- and to many who wouldn’t have had much access to fresh foods otherwise. That’s pretty awesome!

3. Educating Children & Adults

  • We partner with the YMCA’s Camp Sokkia and the Girl Scouts to teach kids where their food comes from, to love the outdoors,  take care of the earth, and to enjoy healthy snacks. For adults, we partner with Master Gardeners and Richland Community College’s horticulture teachers to host classes at the public library on gardening. They’ve been a tremendous success! Each year we also present a class on food preservation so that people can enjoy their veggies all year long. Education is the first step to any change, whether it be in eating habits, attitudes towards the environment around us, or otherwise. We see it as key way in getting people engaged in our mission and what we stand for.

4.  Collaborating With Others

  • There are certainly too many organizations and individuals we partner with to name them all here. We think that many of the things we view as community and global issues (like obesity and poverty) are connected. So, partnering with others only makes sense. It’s a way to tackle more problems with greater efficiency. 

5. Farming Sustainably

  • In the contract with our growers we ask them to pledge what we pledge. DIGG as a whole pledges not to use any chemical herbicides or pesticides on our crops. We are not certified organic, nor do we claim to be totally organic, but we all certainly care about the planet we live on, the soil we grow our plants in, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. We constantly share ideas on more sustainable ways to fulfill our mission. And when you have a tangible connection to the earth, it’s hard not to!

6. Increasing the Local Food Supply & Reducing Food Miles

  • We only sell our produce locally and there has been such a huge demand for what we are doing! Corn and soybeans are grown all around Macon County, but much of that is inedible!  A large portion goes to cattle feed or becomes high fructose corn syrup. And that is all fine and dandy but we need food to feed ourselves and get all of our vital nutrients. According to the peer-reviewed article “The local industrial complex? Questioning the link between local foods and energy use”, in recent years, on average, an item of produces travels 1,500 miles to reach the consumer. This amount has increased 25% since 1980. Local food releases fewer pollutants into the atmosphere and contains more nutrients (as plants lose nutrients each day after they are picked). There aren’t many farmers in Macon County dedicated to the kind of gardening we are doing, but we are working with the ones that do exist on ramping up production in order to bring enough local fresh food to meet the demand.

7. Beautifying the City

  • Decatur is full of vacant lots where houses have been condemned or broken down. We farm those vacant lots and bring life back to places life had appeared to abandon. Our gardens burst forth showing the value of what we left behind in its full green leaves and big juicy tomatoes. Gardens, even vegetable ones, are beautiful, and beauty brings smiles to peoples faces, reminding them of the beauty within themselves. That is what we are about, helping the earth and helping people. And we love what we do.

8. Dreaming

  • We are really good at this one! And we have lots of interesting projects in the works. Next blog post we will update you on what we have planted and the seeds we’ve sown for the near future! Exciting stuff.  

 

Thanks for reading! Visit us on our webpage at decaturdigg.org or on Facebook. Keep gardening, eating healthily, and lifting people up!

The DIGG Team