New Things Growing at the Otterbein Community Garden

Posted Aug 13, 2020

The pandemic has affected people in central Ohio in ways nobody could imagine, and sometimes, community gardening can help fill a void. Gardening can provide food for pantries seeing increased food insecurity due to job losses, or activities for people looking for socially distanced hobbies. In a way, these needs are shining a new light on the work of the Otterbein Community Garden. 

The Otterbein Community Garden is divided into plots that are cultivated by a variety of community groups, including schools, neighborhood associations, senior citizen living communities, and Otterbein University students and staff. These gardeners are welcome to use gardening tools and water provided at the site. 

Otterbein MBA student Jonathan Obenchain has been planting at the Community Garden during summer 2020 and has really developed new horticulture skills. He believes that the garden gives everyone, especially students, the unique chance to go beyond themselves. 

“Plant what you want, when you want,” Obenchain said. “Test the parameters of local growing and also yourself to see what is possible.” 

This summer, a new partnership has been established with the Worthington Resource Pantry.  The pantry is a new food equity partner located just minutes from Otterbein’s campus on the east side of Worthington. This new partnership extends the reach of the Community Garden’s food distribution to more people in central Ohio. Gardeners also donate regularly to Westerville Area Resource Ministry (WARM) and the Central College Food Pantry. 

“Having fresh, healthy produce to offer our neighbors is a top priority for us and having Otterbein as a partner makes that happen,” said Worthington Resource Pantry Director of Operations Christa Hester. “They’ve asked which produce items would be most desired by our neighbors and have taken into account the kinds of foods that would be most culturally relevant. We can’t thank them enough.” 

In addition to outgoing donations, the Community Garden also received one to make gardening more accessible to everyone. Through an alumna connection, the George J. Igel & Co., Inc. Construction firm donated new gravel to use on pathways throughout the garden. The new gravel will especially help senior citizens and adults with disabilities have sturdier footing and an easier time navigating to their plots.  

Community Garden Gravel Donation
Otterbein Community Garden entrance with new gravel

The Otterbein Center for Community Engagement (CCE), which oversees the garden, has also begun new video series designed to increase the Community Garden’s impact to the local community. Visitors to the CCE YouTube channel will find playlists about growing your own food with Professor Paul Wendel, easy recipes students can make with food available at The Promise House on-campus resource center, DIY gardening tips and more. 

“We wanted to give the community something that they could connect with while also affirming that they, too, could garden in their own homes no matter their level,” said CCE Program Coordinator Micia Clemmons. “We ultimately want to help people gain accessibility and the tools to dismantle any boundaries that may pose an obstacle for food equity.” 

The Tea Garden, a Community Garden favorite, has returned this summer, as well. Several varieties have been planted, such as chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, yarrow, sage and rose. All of these plants can be added to tea blends to create many unique flavors.  

There are many ways to get involved with the Community Garden and to work on fighting food insecurity in central Ohio. Visit the CCE Facebook and YouTube channel to learn more!