The Toledo GROWs program is the community gardening outreach of Toledo Botanical Garden. GROWs is a grassroots effort dedicated to the continued growth and success of community-based gardens in the City of Toledo and the surrounding area.
As a statewide and regional leader in community gardening, the Toledo GROWs program offers organizational resources and technical assistance to support the development of sustainable garden projects that serve people of diverse ages and abilities. In 2016, the GROWs program served more than 125 community gardens. These include gardens at schools and other organizations, faith-based gardens, and neighborhood gardens. Throughout the seasons, Toledo GROWs works with community garden organizers to ensure that they have everything necessary to create a vibrant community garden.
The Toledo GROWs program is cultivating a dynamic community gardening movement across the greater Toledo area. Working in partnership with a wide variety of community groups, the program draws on the collective heritage of gifts from Toledo’s distinct cultures. Community gardens benefit everyone by creating safe and healthy recreational activity within our neighborhoods.
To support these efforts that build healthier communities, please consider joining in our work as a contributor, partner, or volunteer. For more information, please call 419.720.8714.
The Toledo GROWs program is housed at the Robert J. Anderson Urban Agriculture Center, located at 900 Oneida Street, on a three acre farm in the heart of the city of Toledo. The site serves as home base for services provided to 125+ community gardens throughout the city and surrounding area. Services provided to community gardens in the Toledo GROWs network include:
- Technical expertise in assisting gardeners to plan, build, and maintain their community garden.
- Free seeds and seedlings for each growing season.
- Free loan of tools for large work days at gardens.
- Assistance with recruiting volunteers for large work days.
- Educational opportunities, including workshops and opportunities to learn from the growing efforts at the urban farm.
- Networking with other community gardeners, particularly through quarterly meetings of community gardeners.
- Materials, such as wood, rainbarrels, and compost, as they become available.
- Advocating in the community for urban gardening.
Services for the Community at Large
The Toledo GROWs program supports efforts for members of our community to live a healthy lifestyle. We provide opportunities for individuals to learn about growing and eating healthy food, and we are a source for that healthy, nutrient-rich food. Services to the community at large include:
- Opportunities for community members to learn to grow healthy food by volunteering at our urban farm or in community gardens.
- Fresh, healthy produce for sale through the Toledo Grown Food Hub. This hub features produce from the urban farm, as well as from several community gardens. It is available via shares of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), through an e-market stand, and at local restaurants that use Toledo Grown produce on their menu.
- Job and Lifeskills training for high-risk youth. Through a partnership with the Lucas County Juvenile Justice Center, youth work with a job coach to learn lifeskills and marketable job skills in the areas of gardening, landscape, building maintenance, and simple carpentry.
- Educational programming for youth, including fee-based field trips to the farm or in-class presentations.
- Educational programs for adults, including workshops and the Master Urban Farmer Program (co-sponsored with Ohio State University Extension).
- Annual community-wide Seed Swap, featuring free seeds, workshops, and information about gardening, held the last Saturday in February. The 2017 Seed Swap will be at Scott High School, 2400 Collingwood Boulevard, Toledo, Saturday, February 25, from noon until 3:00.
2016 was a busy year at Toledo GROWs!
- 7,575 packets of seeds were distributed free throughout the community
- 7,521 plants were grown and distributed to community gardeners free of charge
- 6,500+ people served by community gardens
- 6,000 volunteer hours donated to the program
- 3,751 pounds of produce harvested at the urban farm
- 900 attendees at the 2016 Seed Swap
- 795 pounds of honey harvested from the beehives at the farm and main Toledo Botanical Garden campus
- 565 tools loaned to community gardens for work days
- 126 active community gardens
- 103 attendees at free workshops
- 25 participants in the second Master Urban Farmer class, co-sponsored with Ohio State University Extension
Benefits of Community Gardens
Community gardens enhance the quality of life in many ways by:
- transform neglected spaces into safe, beautiful gardens where neighborhood engagement brings people of all ages and backgrounds together
- connect urban dwellers back to the land and nature
- provide wholesome, nutritious, and economical food
- reducing crime and blight
- promoting the creation and use of green space
- create positive community development
Community gardens are safe, beautiful outdoor spaces on public or private lands, where neighbors meet to grow and care for vegetables, flowers and native plant species. The gardeners take initiative and responsibility for organizing, maintaining and managing the garden area. This participation builds skills and creates positive community development that is widely accessible to a diverse range of people. Partnerships between Toledo Botanical Garden’s Toledo GROWs program, the Metroparks of the Toledo Area, the City of Toledo, and community organizations have created additional community benefits, through fostering youth employment, volunteer activity, and the restoration of natural areas.
Community gardens have been shown to revitalize areas from neglected spaces characterized by vandalism and illegal activities into places for community programs and celebration. This transformation takes place when community gardens engage sustained community involvement by youth, families, seniors, intergenerational, ethnic and multicultural groups. There are measurable outcomes that document the success of this collaborative effort. At a number of community gardens, for example, litter, vandalism, documented crime, graffiti and negative park use have declined considerably. Community gardens increase neighborhood engagement.