Community garden fills void in Springfield food desert

Cookouts are a summer staple. A cookout at an oasis will offer a healthy take on the grilling experience, minus the burgers, hot dogs and steaks.

The Jefferson Street Oasis Garden will have its fourth annual Grilling in the Garden and Garden Tour, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 27 at 1027 W. High St. Admission is free, and visitors can sample grilled veggies picked fresh from the garden and take a tour of the cooperative garden created to help with food security and education on healthy food choices on the city’s southwest side.

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There will also be information booths and children’s activities available for visitors.

Given the garden is located in an urban area on a street that’s not well-traveled save for by residents, it’s a chance to see what’s being done to target what’s considered a local food desert.

“We wanted to bring something for the people because a lot don’t know it’s even there and something free for the immediate neighborhood,” said Mary Crabtree, who founded the Oasis Garden with Terry Frederich and Sherry Chen in 2010.

It was constructed on a former athletic field behind the now-closed St. Mary Catholic School. This is the garden’s eighth season of growing.

Visitors can sample a variety the garden’s offerings, like the signature corn on the cob, tomatoes, potatoes and even veggie pizza.

“If it’s growing in the garden, we’ll have it,” Crabtree said.

The tours will show how the garden has expanded over the years. There are 50-60 plots tended by individuals or families and 10 community plots with 85 adults and about 30 children involved.

One gardener grows unusual items including tomatoes that look like peaches and orange watermelons.

Area community members are welcome in on Saturdays to receive some of the harvested goods. That’s part of why it was established according to Crabtree.

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The garden continues to expand in other areas, including more than 100 heritage breed chickens and a butterfly pollinator area installed this year. The latter is part of the educational aspect.

“It’s another area to educate on the role of pollinators for food and for kids to see the pollinators,” said Crabtree.

Although this event isn’t to attract more gardeners, it’s for promoting healthy food awareness and community-involvement. The garden will be accepting donations to support its mission, which also includes offering food classes and gardening tips.

When the Oasis Garden set up to promote its event at a recent Farmers Market downtown, Crabtree found many people surprised to hear about it for the first time, which is what this event is about.

“We just really want everyone to know we’re out there,” Crabtree said.

The garden will also have a fundraiser at Los Mariachis Mexican Restaurant on July 29-30. The restaurant will donate 20 percent of food sales those days to the garden.

For more information about the event or the Oasis Garden, go to

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