Some shrug it off, this effort to grow fruits and vegetables on local land, because they are used to visiting grocery stores instead of farmers’ markets and do not see any reason to change that mode of operation.
A zucchini is a zucchini, and a potato is a potato, in other words.
The people of the Grow Ohio Valley organization, however, have been changing minds in the Upper Ohio Valley area for the past few years, and currently they farm three different locations in the East Wheeling neighborhood to produce foods for a weekly farmers’ market near the corner of 15th and Jacob streets and for their mobile market that visits several different areas each week.
“Knowing where your food is grown has to give local residents peace of mind, I would think, and they can also be confident that the fruits and vegetables are being grown organically,” said Ken Peralta, Grow Ohio Valley’s executive director. “Studies have proven to us that consuming organic fruits and vegetables is a healthier option for people, and that’s why these efforts are being made at this time.
“That is the reason why we have gained the support of federal and local governments, and why we have been able to establish so many partnerships in this area during the short time we’ve been in operation,” he continued. “Eating the fruits and vegetables that we produce will not have an immediate impact, but in the long run the impact will be there, and people will feel much better.”
The newest partnership established by Grow Ohio Valley involves the Bethlehem Apostolic Temple in North Wheeling, along with the residents in that neighborhood. It took a little time for the project to become a reality, but perseverance proved successful.
Brandon Holmes and Melissa Saville are two of those residents, and they wish to share their reasons for being involved with the community project and why they both have decided to plant tomatoes and peppers and several other vegetables.
A Garden Grows in North Wheeling
By Brandon Holmes and Melissa Saville
This past Saturday morning the fruits of the labor of many were planted in the soil of the city’s newest community garden in North Wheeling. Bethlehem Apostolic Temple partnered with Grow Ohio Valley for the construction and initial planting of the garden. The North Wheeling Community Garden sits on the north side of 4th Street adjacent to the Temple and visible from Main Street.
Several neighborhood residents, businesses, and small organizations have tried to bring a garden to the community over the last five years, and they are very grateful to Dr. Darrell Cummings and his congregation for raising the funds and pushing ahead to make this project a reality for North Wheeling. Ken Peralta of Grow Ohio Valley noted that, while it took some time for all the necessary funding to be secured, Bethlehem Temple maintained its commitment to this endeavor, raising monies over the course of more than a year in order to break ground.
Saturday morning’s work event had representatives from the Bethlehem Temple leadership and congregation, Grow Ohio Valley, and the Victorian Old Town Association, along with several neighborhood residents. In just a few hours, all of the empty raised beds of soil were planted with starter plants and seeds and marked with the names of their volunteer caregivers. Crops include tomatoes, peppers, kale, collard greens, cucumbers, watermelon, beets, and Swiss chard. An herb garden will be planted soon.
This project promotes both faith- and community-based fellowship, unifying different parts of a neighborhood that spans a wide breadth of river corridor and hillside from downtown almost to Warwood. With tightly packed historic townhomes and apartment buildings, green space can be hard to find for many. Danny Swann of Grow Ohio Valley pointed out how community gardens can give apartment dwellers in more urban neighborhoods the hands-on opportunity to grow their own fresh produce and provide healthy food for their families.
The garden currently has 13 raised beds, some of which are elevated and accessible to people in wheelchairs or those who need to stand while they tend their plants. Plans to expand the garden further up the block are already being considered. Cummings expressed great joy Saturday morning as even very young children put seeds and plants into the ground with the help of their parents. Of special note, some of the produce grown in this community garden will be harvested and given to Bethlehem Temple’s food pantry for distribution to those in need.
Those interested in volunteering to care for the garden should contact Bethlehem Temple at (304) 233-8899.
(Photos by Brandon Holmes and Ken Peralta)