A Legacy of Growing Gardeners
Since 1994, Turner Farm has been dedicated to promoting the connections between people of all ages and the land that feeds them. A core part of its mission is to educate the community about the health and sustainability of traditional organic growing methods. At the farm, our community supported agriculture programs are all work-share - that is, everyone is required to work on the farm to earn their meat or vegetables. Alongside these programs, anyone can come and shop at the produce shed, or volunteer in the gardens in exchange for food. But we also want to reach beyond our fences and beyond our farmers markets.
Beyond the farm, we have long been inspired by the work of Dan Parker's Home Garden Project in Portland, Oregon. Parker understood that the fresh vegetables that are essential to health are often edged out of low-income peoples' diets by cheaper more filling starches and sweets. He felt the best way to provide folks with the vegetables they needed was to teach them to grow them themselves, and provide them with the space to do it.
The Home Garden Project installed more than 1400 gardens between 1983 and 1996, before evolving into a foundation to help other people start giving-garden programs. There are links at the bottom of the page to just a few of those programs. Freedom Gardeners is one of the youngest, and we're excited to see what kind of impact we can have here in Cincinnati.
The Turner Farm Method:
We decided to follow along our tradition of community and shared work with Freedom Gardeners. The program is open to anyone who would like to participate, and participants work in community gardens in order to earn their personal raised bed gardens. This hands-on experience is coupled with regular gardening classes to provide the foundation of knowledge and curiosity to sustain a lifetime of gardening.It's not easy to start a new activity. Modern life can often get in the way of maintaining a home garden - something that requires attention and regular care. If someone has never picked up a trowel or planted a seed before, well, imagining growing a vegetable garden for one's family seems like a long-shot. We want to change that, and make raising one's own healthy food a regular part of as many people's lives as we can.
One of the original Freedom Gardeners participants, Lois was recruited to help with the program in 2012. Her vision and experience helped reshape the early pieces of the program into what it is today. Lois is the main gardener, working tirelessly at each of the garden locations to provide participants with support and opportunity as they work to earn their beds. Coming from limited gardening experience, Lois is a creative grower, always willing to try something new in the garden. She approaches the garden as a limitless canvas to create a food masterpiece.
As Turner Farm's Crop Production Manager, Megan is all about growing. Fascinated by plants, she grew up gardening and then studied plant biology at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. She is excited for each new season to come and the innumerable opportunities for learning about, growing, and eating delicious produce. She loves sharing her curiosity and her knowledge, and teaches many of the Sunday gardening classes. (She also keeps up this website.)
Melinda has a long history of growing and educating. She grew up on a farm and then studied agriculture at Ohio State University. She pursued a Masters in Education, also at Ohio State, and then taught floriculture at Vincennes University. Melinda came to Turner Farm in 1996 and managed the produce and flower gardens there until 2012, when she passed the reins to Megan in order to focus on education on and off the farm. She is the official "farm mentor," a veritible encyclopedia of garden knowledge and history, and also teaches the majority of Turner Farm's public gardening classes. Melinda will be helping with teaching a number of the Freedom Gardeners Sunday classes as well.
Check out the great work these organizations are doing to get folks growing: