County gardens looking for volunteers

By Kaylie Provenzano

The County Community Gardens are seeking volunteers to help harvest fall produce.

The garden’s board aims to donate more than 100 pounds of produce, primarily butternut squash. The gardens are located throughout DeKalb at schools, medical clinics and businesses and provide fresh food to local pantries. America in Bloom, a national non-profit organization, named the community gardens as the most dynamic community garden program.

“We are trying to close the food gap that exists across this country because 20 percent of the children in DeKalb County do not have food security,” said Mary Kowalski, board member for the community gardens. “Their home cupboards are bare. By growing vegetables, our primary focus, we are bringing local foods to the people for whom providing fresh vegetables to their families is challenging due to high prices and no access to a nearby market.”

Artwork can be seen in the gardens. Nine murals decorate the gardens along with eight 3-D vegetable sculptures. Local artists and students are welcome to create new featured pieces.

Kowalski said artwork must “…be durable, weatherproof, and appropriate and safe — no sharp corners, for instance. We would welcome some kinesthetic art to take advantage of the breezes that blow across our former prairie environment.”

Volunteers from sororities and other organizations have contributed, but additional help is always welcome.

“One example is our work with the nutrition and dietetic students, environmental studies students and Huskie Scholars,” said gardens coordinator Dan Kenney. “We have had student interns as well as over 100 student volunteers spread out over the two years.”

Diane Blazek, executive director of All-America Selections, a sponsor of the award, said the award was supported because it has “a similar mission to recognize edible gardens in a community where access to food or land may not be available.”