Paula Hatfield, Program Coordinator for the Hamilton County University of Illinois Extension is embarking on her 4th season of a GIFT Garden. GIFT stands for Growing Illinois Food Together. She was at Kiwanis on Thursday to talk about Hamilton County steps to success in advance of White County’s launch. U of I Extensions from all across southern Illinois are partnering with Master Gardeners, 4-H clubs and members and community partners.
The first step is cleaning up the lot donated. In Hamilton County, the lot is located as Hatfield says, “on the curve as you’re headed to the High School.” She said there had been a laundromat, a gas station and a house on that lot before it was donated. There were coil springs from cars, bumpers and spark plugs and each time they tilled, they kept finding more, she said. The White County GIFT Garden lot, as described by Amy McCarty, Program Coordinator for White County, will be on the corner of 1st and Main in Carmi, next to Mitchell Insurance and across the street from Dan’s Tire. The land was donated by the city after they received it from FEMA in the flood buyout. McCarty says it shouldn’t flood however and that it’s on a high spot.
Several grants were applied for in Hamilton County and Hatfield says McCarty has done the same through Farm Credit Services. She also says it wouldn’t be possible without all the help they receive from the community including civic organizations and 4H.
The GIFT Garden from the get go supplies Hatfield and will supply White County with continuous educational opportunities ranging from arts and crafts to cooking and what Hatfield calls real life skills. Eventually, produce is shared with participants, given to food pantries and even sold at farmer’s markets with each community’s garden uniquely meeting the needs of its local community.
McCarty says they’ll start with 4 raised beds and plan to grow each year. At the end of March, she says a groups will be getting together to help build the fence around the garden. Find out how you can get involved or learn more about the GIFT Garden by calling the University of Illinois Extension at 618.382.2662.