Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson (right) addresses those attending the Urban Garden and Local Food Workshop at the Roosevelt Park Pavillion in Gary, Ind., on Oct. 23, 2012. | Jeff Addison~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 14, 2012 6:06AM
Urban gardeners met recently at the inaugural Urban Garden and Local Food Workshop at the Roosevelt Park Pavilion in Gary.
They discussed projects that balance economic, social and environmental aspects that can be used in any community. The Urban Garden and Local Food Systems is an initiative of Green Urbanism, the Gary Parks Department and GrowNWI.
Valparaiso resident Chuck Gleason of GrowNWI said his group helped community gardens establish 50 beds to grow flowers and fresh produce. Gary Storm Water Management Department coordinator Brenda Scott Henry said the workshop allowed officials to hear from the public as to how they can help with urban gardening, farming and agriculture as a whole.
Gardening groups, including Stewart House Urban Farm and Garden, Trinity Baptist Church Community Garden, Thea Bowman Leadership Academy Community Garden and individual and master gardeners broke into groups with the Gary Parks Department, the American Heart Association, GrowNWI and more. They shared ideas that will benefit their gardens and, in turn, the communities.
Master gardener and Trinity Baptist Church member Ronald Jones said he wants to help decrease obesity in the community, particularly among children.
“We have a major problem because we are losing our children to obesity, diabetes and other health issues because they are not eating right or exercising,” Jones said. “When I was growing up, we had fresh fruits and vegetables, we had gym in school and, during recess, we ran and played games.
“The cafeterias were healthy because the lunches were cooked and prepared, not frozen.”
One of the breakout groups raised concern over contaminated ground water. Deborah Orr is with the Environmental Protection Agency as a brownfield coordinator for Region 5, which covers Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
“Testing for ground-water contamination should be one of the top priorities for gardeners,” she said.
Another concern was gardening groups having so much produce that they eventually throw it away.
“In some cases, there is a lack of trust from citizens, who wonder why the produce is being given away,” Thea Bowman community garden coordinator Lynda Bodie said. “Some people think something may be wrong with it. We have to change that (perception).”
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said Gary will work with all to create the best urban gardens possible.
Gary Parks Department director Lori Peterson-Latham said she was pleased with the enthusiasm and the diverse interest from people outside of Gary who are willing to improve and support community gardens.