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Fifth Annual Farm-to-Table Dinner Benefits Grow Food, Grow Hope

Community Gardens Ready to Stand on Its Own without Federal AmeriCorps Grant

September 16, 2013

Posing among the scarecrows that adorned the Farm-to-Table Benefit Dinner are, from the left, gardeners Mickie and David Keller, and event committee members Tony Staubach, Tara Rhinehart, Tara Lydy and Peggy Sturdivant.

Posing among the scarecrows that adorned the Farm-to-Table Benefit Dinner are, from the left, gardeners Mickie and David Keller, and event committee members Tony Staubach, Tara Rhinehart, Tara Lydy and Peggy Sturdivant.

More than 150 guests enjoyed a late summer bounty of locally produced foods Thursday (Sept. 12) at Wilmington College for the benefit of Grow Food, Grow Hope’s community gardening initiative.

The College and Sodexo Campus Services sponsored the fourth annual event at the new outdoor pavilion, which is within view of the 40 raised bed vegetable plots on the eastern edge of campus. The Friends of Hope Garden constitutes the centerpiece of Grow Food, Grow Hope’s mission of expanding food access in the community.

Sodexo’s professional staff prepared a feast that featured items from the College Farm, agriculture professor Harold Thirey’s farm and Irons’ Fruit Farm, the latter of which is a fruit grower in Lebanon closely related to WC alumnus Linda Irons Wiggers.

WC President Jim Reynolds hearkened a visit he made to Tanzania and the hardships faced by many in that African nation as he asked those in attendance “to appreciate the bounty we have here.” He also thanked them for supporting a program that has become an important part of the “rebirth” of Wilmington College.

Tony Staubach, GFGH project manager, said the community gardening initiative has expanded over five years from serving persons that might be unemployed, underemployed or on fixed incomes to include anyone that might benefit from learning gardening skills.

Indeed, GFGH worked last year with several Cincinnati churches in helping them start gardening projects and this year will work with youth at a women’s shelter and victims of urban and rural poverty and those that might benefit from the therapeutic aspects of gardening.

(LEFT) Guests serve themselves from a variety of locally produced foods.


Staubach introduced the mother/son combo of Mickie and David Keller as persons that “impacted the lives” of their fellow gardeners. They represented the 40 families that had plots this summer at WC’s Friends of Hope Garden.

“This opportunity has helped us become more self-sufficient in many ways,” David Keller said, noting they not only maintained their garden plot at the College during the spring and summer, but they also added another 4x12-foot raised bed garden and made an additional garden in a children’s swimming pool at their home.

The Kellers canned much of their harvest for future use.

Staubach also introduced several of the summer associates, all of whom are WC students, that assisted with the program after the AmeriCorps* VISTA grant expired and those staff members left in mid-June.

“We never had a summer of Grow Food, Grow Hope with out VISTAS the entire time,” he said. “These students took the program and ran with it. They proved that Grow Food, Grow Hope can stand on its own at Wilmington College.”

Joshua York, a sophomore from Philadelphia majoring in chemistry, spoke of what the experience meant to him.

“I could have gone back to Philly and worked in the deli, but I wanted to learn something new and help people,” he said.

The summer associates all mentioned that highlight this summer included the youth outreach program and staffing a composting/gardening exhibit at the Ohio State Fair, the latter of which elicited interest and an interview from the NBC television affiliate in Columbus.

Joe Njeru, a sophomore from Kenya majoring in business administration, added how “eye-opening” it has been for him on how gardening can “bring a community so much closer together.”

Both a silent and live auction of donated items complemented the fundraising aspect of the event.