Archived Story

Growing together

Published 10:20pm Wednesday, March 14, 2012

We’re happy to see interest in reviving a Dowagiac community garden by the fire station and on Halstead Street and glad to see gardeners consult Mark VanTil, who has done such a phenomenal job growing Niles Community Gardens in two years.
A second meeting has been set for 5 p.m. Tuesday at the fire department garden site.
NCG pays special attention to schools to reconnect students with nature.
Niles got started with $8,000 in federal block grant seed money. Then they wrote a grant to Gateway Foundation in Buchanan, which awarded $5,400 over two years for four sheds. The remainder went for tools.
Niles’ eight gardens combine community plots with individual plots.
VanTil is executive director. “The title doesn’t matter,” he said, “the point is, someone has to take the reins,” assisted in communication by someone with capable computer skills who can e-mail updates.
VanTil was a volunteer to start. His status now provides him an “allowance” through AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), the national service program designed to fight poverty.
NCG, which went through 10 miles of string last year donated by Rural King, this year is adding 25 fruit trees. They nurture 5,000 plants in the high school greenhouse.
They had a bumper crop of pumpkins, sold 1,600 and made $3,440 for a school and $800 for NCG, which gets free seeds from Feed the Hungry in South Bend, Ind.
It seems like a great way to socialize with a lot of bang for the buck.
In the spirit of one good turn deserves, another, Dowagiac citizens can set aside our traditional rivalry with Niles and log on to DeLoach Vineyards Community Garden Contest to vote for NCG, which Wednesday had 482 votes for one of five $4,000 grants against 15 gardens nationally from Montana to Maine.

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