Sprouting up

OSU-OKC Farmers’ Market
By: Sara Cowan

“Now we’re gearing up for the warm season, which would be your squash, cantaloupe [and] tomatoes,” said Ray Ridlen, horticulturist from Oklahoma State University’s Oklahoma City campus.

Ridlen, who offers gardening sessions several times a year, saw an abrupt uptick in efforts to establish metro-area community gardens when the economy declined. He estimated hundreds of them at churches, schools, charities and elsewhere; for his community gardening session this year, more than 15 such gardens were represented.

“It’s a win-win situation,” Ridlen said. “It’s good exercise. It’s good for the kids; they get to nurture something. They get introduced [to vegetables and fruits].”

It’s also a cost-effective way to put high-quality, often-organic edibles on dinner tables. The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma’s (RFBOK) Urban Harvest program helps community gardeners get started by providing plants and seeds.

“Most of these are youth or charitable gardens that share their produce with Oklahomans in need, or [we] educate limited resource students,” said Mason Weaver, Urban Harvest director.

Many community gardeners return the favor by donating excess bounty to RFBOK.

“We prefer to help connect gardeners with their nearest food pantry so their produce can be as fresh as possible when it’s distributed,” Weaver said. “Fresh-food access for the clients served by the Regional Food Bank and our partner agencies is an absolutely critical step in the fight against hunger in Oklahoma.”

Jennifer Gooden Seibold, the City of Oklahoma City’s sustainability manager, said budding community
gardeners don’t need a license or permit, but they should be mindful
that weeds don’t grow higher than 12 inches, and not to put gardens in
the city’s right-of-way or sight triangles.

“But there is no need to go to the [city’s] development center for in-ground gardens,” she said.

However, if community gardeners want to build storage sheds, they must submit project plans with a legal description of the property to the development services department.

To become involved or get more information, Ridlen is putting together a database on upcoming classes and educational opportunities.

“We want to be able to bring the [community gardening] stakeholders together,” he said.

For more information, email ray.ridlen@okstate.edu.

Carol Cole-Frowe

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