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Gardening in Housing Units Yields More than Produce

Kirkendall Heights, located in Ellsworth, Kan., developed new whiskey barrel gardens.  Residents Betty Jo and Eric are proud to show off their new gardens.

Kirkendall Heights, located in Ellsworth, Kan., developed new whiskey barrel gardens. Residents Betty Jo and Eric are proud to show off their new gardens.

Kansas gardening projects and the USDA People’s Garden initiative were featured items during the Rural Rental Housing Association of Kansas (RRHAK) Annual Meeting.  Aimee Omohundro from USDA Rural Development, David Coltrain from Kansas State University Research and Extension, Shari Wilson from the Kansas Association of Conservation and Environmental Education, and Terri Bradshaw from Homestead Affordable Housing discussed how to start a garden, rewards of gardening and how to get the community involved.

Terri Bradshaw, Director of Property Management for Homestead Affordable Housing, a member of RRHAK, noted that raised-bed gardens offer gardening accessibility to all residents. Currently, Homestead Affordable housing has four properties with raised-bed gardens, and by summer’s end, all six properties will have raised beds available to residents.

“The raised-bed gardens enable the residents to continue an activity that they had at their homes thereby creating an easier transition for many of our residents.  It is also a social event that many of them enjoy participating in with others,” Bradshaw said.

Adding a garden to a low-income housing facility can benefit residents by providing social interaction, nutritional produce and exercise. Aimee Omohundro, a Kansas USDA Rural Development Housing Technician, explained to audience members why USDA Rural Development supports adding a garden to a housing facility.

These raised-bed gardens are located at Trinity Place Senior Residence in Atchison, Kan., which is managed by Homestead Affordable Housing.  Homestead Affordable Housing shared their success of implementing raised-bed gardens at their housing projects during the 2011 Rural Rental Housing Association of Kansas Conference in Great Bend.

These raised-bed gardens are located at Trinity Place Senior Residence in Atchison, Kan., which is managed by Homestead Affordable Housing. Homestead Affordable Housing shared their success of implementing raised-bed gardens at their housing projects during the 2011 Rural Rental Housing Association of Kansas Conference in Great Bend.

“Adding a garden to a housing facility is a win-win situation for the residents and the property owner,” stated Omohundro.  “A garden can add curb appeal to a housing facility, and improve the quality of life for residents living in the facility.”

This time of year, gardens are blooming all over the state of Kansas, and USDA Rural Development wants to help more gardens see the light.  Omohundro has been working diligently to help property owners identify resources available to help them create outdoor gardening opportunities.

John Harsch and Barb Simpson of Sustainable Environmental Consultants have offered to donate, install, and educate managers and tenants on the maintenance of GardenSoxx for three Multi-Family Housing complexes in Kansas.  The GardenSoxx are environmentally friendly, weed free planting “soxx” that may be placed anywhere and moved as necessary.  These convenient products will allow the projects to join the People’s Garden initiative by growing the plants of their choice without the hassle and worry of digging a traditional garden.

Kerri Ebert serves as the Kansas Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) Coordinator.  Ebert stated that SARE offers youth grants for demonstration projects that provide hands-on experience in exploring sustainable agricultural issues and practices.  Multi-family housing complexes looking to create raised beds, or developing other innovative gardening techniques, could contact possible youth partners like:  FFA, 4-H, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts for possible gardening projects. Youth groups that partner with complexes could be eligible for a youth grant for up to $400 through SARE.  Applications are due in January 2012, and if you have questions about SARE contact Ebert at:  785-532-2976.

Learn more about the People’s Garden movement at www.usda.gov/peoplesgarden.

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