Springfield community garden offers new program for children

A new program is planting the seeds to encourage students to learn gardening.

The Jefferson Street Oasis Community Garden is designating space for school-age children learn about basic gardening skill, to grow their own items and have fun. On June 30, the group added a brand new 10 by 12-foot children’s cottage that will be used for education classes, a library of books about gardening, storage and activities.

The cottage, which cost more than $4,000, was purchased with funds from a Creating Healthy Communities grant the Clark County Combined Health District was awarded from the Ohio Department of Health in 2019.

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The program has been several years in the making and began with kids whose families have plots at the Oasis Garden, located at 1100 W. Jefferson St.

The goal is to recruit interested kids from the surrounding neighborhood or anywhere in the area, from preschoolers to teens.

“It’s for learning while growing, doing fun projects and fixing the foods they grow,” said Mary Crabtree, who founded Oasis with Terry Fredrich and Sherry Chen about a decade ago.

Crabtree said the group was about to begin working with The Ark, an afterschool program offered in the building adjacent the garden, this spring before the pandemic hit. They’ll pursue that association again when school begins this fall.

The first items kids will grow include pumpkins and gourds which should be ready to harvest in time for the fall season.

Oasis gardeners Dave and Deb Brugger braved the 90-plus degree weather late one afternoon to install a section for the kids to grow these initial items. A retired educator, Deb Brugger enjoys still educating while promoting her hobby, and is especially excited about a library filled with books on gardening at the new cottage.

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“We love to teach and there’s so much to learn,” she said. “We want to instill the rules, this is your place.”

One of the youngest gardeners is 8-year-old Delaney Leach. She’s spent time “forever” working in gardens around her home and is excited to join other kids.

“You get to spend time with family and grow juicy and healthy vegetables,” she said about her motivation to join in.

Fredrich is pleased how Oasis has evolved over the past decade. In 2019, about 35 donors put up $15,500 to build a barn to raise chickens that was completed in March.

He said it shows the dedication of those who have plots, which include a wide variety of people such as college professors and groups including churches and Springfield firefighters, who give away some of what they harvest.

“I call it a social economic mixer,” Fredrich said of the gardeners.

Although Oasis has all its plots filled and there’s a waiting list for others who’d like to garden there, he calls it one of the area’s best kept secrets.

For more information on Oasis Community Garden, search for its Facebook page.

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