Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
FAIRFIELD — Jefferson County residents can sign up for a new program designed to help low- to moderate-income households perform their own gardening.
The Sustainable Living Coalition and the City of Fairfield received a grant through the federal government’s Community Development Block Grant for COVID relief, and with this money established the “Fairfield Garden Initiative.” The program seeks to help Jefferson County households overcome the challenges of food insecurity through organic gardening.
Tiffany April Raines, a farm partner who is growing 6,000 plants for the program, said the group still is taking applications for this year. She said the initiative plans to serve 100 people in 2022 and at least that many in 2023. The goal will be to grow $150,000 worth of produce.
Those who enroll in the program will receive three forms of benefits:
1) Free plant starts — up to 20 per household.
2) A series of 12 workshops about setting up a garden, harvesting, and preserving produce.
3) Tool and resource lending library: a place where enrollees can borrow gardening tools and get compost.
Raines has been active in Fairfield’s gardening community for a few years, and became especially active in 2020 when she started the Fairfield Gardeners Coalition. The group helps residents of Fairfield network and exchange ideas and advice about how to run a successful garden. Rains is the owner of Wild Spirits LLC, a small permaculture nursery that sells organic plant starts. She said the pandemic made people fear food shortages, and this has prompted her to work even harder to help people, especially in a lower income bracket, provide fresh vegetables to their families.
Last fall, she met with prominent sustainably-minded members of the community to brainstorm how to make people more food secure. The group made a list of all the things the community needed, such as plant starts, educational workshops, a tool library and a greenhouse.
The Sustainable Living Coalition drafted a grant request, and with the blessing of the Fairfield City Council, was able to receive federal funds to cover most of the projects it wanted to do, minus the greenhouse. Raines said she has started a GoFundMe to raise funds for the greenhouse. The GoFundMe can be found at gofundme.com/tiffanygreenhouse.
The major players in getting the Fairfield Garden Initiative off the ground have been not just Raines but also Bob Ferguson, Director of the Sustainable Living Coalition; Faith Reeves, who will lead all the workshops; and Barb Sieren, who was hired as the coordinator because of her experience running the Back to the Basics Farm and managing the Fairfield Farmers Market.
Raines said her good friend Leanne Gluck was instrumental in acquiring the federal grant, too.
“We spent many evenings together over the winter doing paperwork and working with the grant administrator to make it happen,” Raines said.
To find out if you qualify for the program and to learn more about it, visit gardenfairfield.com.
Call Andy Hallman at 641-575-0135 or email him at email@example.com