Community garden helps gardeners grow

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – The benefits of eating fresh produce are well documented, and while many people might want to grow their own vegetables, having enough space to garden can be prohibitive. A community garden space on the near north side is making gardening possible for dozens of families.

Fall Creek Community Gardens, a 501(c)(3) organization, is located at the corner of 30th Street and Central Avenue and provides nearly one acre of community garden space to residents of the Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhood. The garden started in 2011 and has grown to provide gardening space for more than 40 families this season.

“We have a community garden, the teaching garden and our orchard all the way at the north end,” says Maggie Goeglein, the Executive Director and sole employee of Fall Creek Community Gardens.

The garden provides 4×8 plots to rent for a seasonal rate of $15, where gardeners can plant whatever they want. If the cost is prohibitive, a person has the opportunity to volunteer in the teaching garden and take produce home as a thank-you.

The teaching garden is used as a place to teach budding gardeners how to plant vegetables and herbs. The garden also reserves four beds for its Children’s Garden. Girl Scout troop 283 plants within those beds and pitches in at the community garden. The community garden and the troop regularly donate about 500 pounds of food to the Mid-North Food Pantry and the Julian center.

“We also have patio space, a storage shed [with community gardening tools] and the cistern for water,” says Goeglein.

The 3,000 gallon cistern was part of a 2011 grant from United Water to provide a system that included a pump, electrical panel and plumbing. The cost was $15,250 and Goeglein says only one inch of rain is necessary to fill up the cistern.

As for the gardeners who plant here, Leslie Trice is participating for the first season.

“We planted some greens [like] kale, some onions, some tomatoes and some lettuce,” explains Trice. “The lettuce and the tomatoes I’m excited about eating. You see I got my fork, so I’m ready to eat.”

Trice holds up her fork and reaches for a bowl of salad made from lettuce and radishes picked from the garden just minutes prior.

“Healthy eating,” says Trice. “That’s what it’s about.”

Fall Creek Gardens was created in response to a neighborhood survey that showed an interest in home gardening in the Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhood. Residents wanted a gardening hub, but didn’t have one.

In 2011, Broadway United Methodist Church procured the property with the help of the Mapleton Fall Creek Development Corporation. The property was originally covered in weeds and trash but was transformed with raised garden beds that allowed the community to begin planting.

“It was almost all weeds — and then there was a big gravel parking lot in the middle,” says Goeglein. “There were things being dumped along the alley-way, like extra tires and trash that were being dropped off because no one was really maintaining the property at all.”

In November 2013, Fall Creek Community Gardens officially became a non-profit organization and purchased the land from the neighborhood development corporation. The garden now defines its mission “to empower home and urban food growers by practicing and teaching sustainable and organic methods, promoting community gardens, and providing access to resources.”

The future

In the Spring of 2014, with the help of the Efroymson Family Fund, Fall Creek Community Gardens purchased a building that sits directly across Central Avenue.

Goeglein says the building will serve as classroom space, a commercial kitchen – to show how to use produce, offices, event space and retail space to sell organic plants or fresh produce.

“There’s not a lot of access to fresh food [in this neighborhood],” says Goeglein. “There’s not a full sized grocery story anywhere in the community, so this building would be a place where healthy eating is possible all year long.”

The community garden recently began its capital campaign to rehabilitate the building. Goeglein says they need $200,000 to make the building useable, but would prefer to raise $300,000 to make the building, in her words, “perfect.”

If you live in the Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhood and you want more information, email Goeglein at maggie@fallcreekgardens.org.