Bella Mezzacapo photojournalist
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it took a toll on Pittsburg’s Community Garden. Until recently, it has been out of commission.
On Thursday Sep. 8, members of ENACTUS met at the First Christian Church, where the Community Garden is located, to break ground and bring in new plants for their fall garden. The purpose of the Community Garden Project is to give back to the community, the Lord’s Diner, and help solve food insecurity within Pittsburg.
“We have been tasked with revitalizing the garden and it’s one of our projects that is near and dear to our hearts,” said Chelsey Decker, director of graduate business programs and ENACTUS advisor. “We started in 2021 and met out here tonight to break ground for our fall garden. So, the community garden was here before the pandemic hit and it was running very smoothly. I know they created roughly 10,000 pounds of fresh produce with one of their annual gardens. So, our goal is to start with a smaller garden, like we have for the fall, and then expand our garden every semester. So, in the spring we hope to expand our garden even more with new fresh produce and then a whole new garden in the summer next year. The community garden is fully supported by PSU and ENACTUS.”
There is a purpose with every project, but there is also a project leader, too. Although the project is backed by the organization as a whole, a lot of the behind-the-scenes work is done by leader and sophomore in marketing Bailey Gallup.
“Being project leader really involves contacting everyone involved with the project,” Gallup said. “Finding out what we need to plant, making sure places have the plants we need. I’ve made calls to Joplin stores to make sure that our plants get picked up, paid for, then making sure that we have volunteers to come out, water the garden, do work over here, and take pictures of everything. We use the pictures to make a presentation for competitions. With that, we had to get survey data from the Lord’s Diner to find out what their patrons like and what kind of vegetables they want. How often do they eat vegetables, do they want fresh vegetables, things like that. We ask these questions to find out what kind of food insecurity Pittsburg has, even though Crawford County has its own statistics on Crawford County as a whole. It’s actually some of the worst food insecurity in all of Kansas. So, it’s been important to us to find fresh vegetables, be able to donate to places like the Lord’s Diner, keeping in contact with the Lord’s Diner, and then kind of whenever nobody can do anything else, I come out and do it for them.”
Although ENACTUS is taking on this project as an organization, the project was initially brought to their attention by someone external.
“We’ve been working with Matt O’Malley from Live Well Crawford County,” Tucker Jessip, junior in business management, and president of ENACTUS, said. “He actually informed us of an old community garden here in Pittsburg while brainstorming project ideas. We did some research, found out that it was here, and we came to them and asked pretty much ‘can we start this back up again?’ The church has been more than happy to have us here. They’ve been very flexible with us using the space, their water, and all sorts of stuff.”
The project started with the community, with Live Well Crawford County, and it will end with the community, with the Lord’s Diner.
“We also have a lot of community partners that have helped us make this happen,” Decker said. “The First Christian Church has been very gracious to let us take over the garden behind their church. Matt O’Malley with Live Well Crawford County has been very helpful in helping us to get this started. Once we harvest the garden this fall, we should have around 450 pounds of food that will all be donated to the Lord’s Diner in Pittsburg. So, it’ll be just tomatoes, cabbage and broccoli this fall and, in the spring, we’ll have a whole new selection of vegetables and fruits to donate to the Lord’s Diner.”
Although the project is mainly about giving back to the community and solving food insecurity, it is also a learning experience for everyone involved.
“My favorite part about this project is the learning,” Jessip said. “Everyone who gets their hands in on this project will learn everything pretty much, almost everything, you need to know about gardening. We follow a gardening guide that’s been written by individuals at K-State, they made a Kansas Gardening Guide. So, we just follow that religiously and work on when to plant, what to plant, how to plant everything, and it’s been fun to learn what plants to plant where and how. Then, when all of this stuff grows, we’re going to give it to the Lord’s Diner so they can use it. The best part is actually giving people access to fresh foods and vegetables and stuff like that.”