The Community Garden plots surrounding the Geodesic Biodome are the heart of 577’s grounds. Walking the curved paths in the peak of summer, you see a variety of beautiful vegetables like tomatoes, green beans, peppers, onions, squash, and greens growing amidst flowers and herbs, all cared for by community members. 577’s founder and benefactress Virginia Secor Stranahan envisioned the gardens as a space where organic gardening methods could be demonstrated for 577 visitors, and community members could hone their gardening skills with their hands in the dirt.
The community garden plots have evolved over time from being 13 large “theme” gardens into numerous vegetable garden plots. We now have 58 garden plots of various shapes and sizes. These dedicated garden plots are tended to by our Community Gardeners with a portion of their harvest donated to local organizations to help fight food insecurity in the area.
In Ohio, 1 in 8 people experience hunger.* Wood and Lucas Counties have 10.7 percent and 13.5 percent of their populations experiencing food insecurity.* This means that over 71,000 people in our local area do not have consistent access to enough food to live an active, healthy lifestyle. This year, the 577 Foundation has donated over 1,500 pounds of organic produce to three local organizations that work with food insecure populations in Lucas & Wood counties: SAME Café, Perrysburg Christians United Food Pantry, and Perrysburg Heights Community Association.
SAME Café, located in downtown Toledo, is a donation-based, fair exchange nonprofit restaurant that serves healthy food to everyone, regardless of ability to pay. SAME guests can volunteer to wash dishes for a half hour or donate some produce in exchange for their meal instead of paying. Executive Director of SAME Café Rori Quinonez says, “The beautiful donations coming from the grounds of 577 have ensured our guests have access to local, seasonal, healthy food on a daily basis. Not only have guests been able to try foods they may otherwise have never had access to, but the staff at SAME has also benefitted from learning about the bounty possible in our own backyard. We absolutely love 577 and are honored to feel their support via their amazing produce!” These produce donations are a huge labor of love that our community gardeners undertake each growing season.
Our Community Garden program brings other benefits to participants beyond serving the community, like improving mental and physical health and deepening gardeners’ relationship with nature. Gardening is also a great hands-on learning experience for people of any age and ability level. We love to see kids out in the community garden plots helping their family members and getting their hands dirty! Our gardeners share gardening tips and ideas, take care of each other’s plots when on vacation, and build relationships over time. One community gardener stated, “The 577 Community Garden program is awesome. The philosophy and people are a community treasure. The sense of community, support, and help to others is invaluable.” Another gardener stated, “We have a greater appreciation for what it takes to produce food.” Also, “I love how calming it is. I pay so much more attention to pollinators now.” Our community gardeners receive the added benefit of having two experienced horticulturists on staff to answer questions and give gardening advice.
The community gardens are just one part of our overarching mission here at The 577 Foundation which is to build a creative, caring community through curiosity and lifelong learning.
If you are interested in supporting our Community Gardening Program, there are many ways you can help!
- Volunteer with 577’s Horticulture Team to help maintain our beautiful gardens and grounds
- Email Samantha Day, 577 organic garden horticulturist, about how to donate excess produce from your own home garden.
- Sign up to be on the waitlist for a community garden plot
- Have lunch at SAME Café in the Downtown Toledo Library and taste some of 577’s delicious organic produce!
- Make a donation
BONUS! For a limited time, you can support the Growing Fund by purchasing a piece from our “We Root For Each Other” special apparel collection with Jupmode now through October 1 at midnight. With artwork hand-drawn by Isabelle Tucker, 577’s program coordinator and studio art instructor, and in collaboration with Samantha Day, 577’s organic garden horticulturist, the message WE ROOT FOR EACH OTHER was inspired by our Community Gardening program and the community gardeners who are such an integral part of 577’s mission.
Written by 577 Organic Garden Horticulturist Samantha Day & 577 Garden Fellow & AmeriCorps VISTA Member Chayli Buenger