WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Plans Underway for Community Gardens

Macomb, IL – The groundwork is being laid to start several community gardens in Macomb next spring.

Rob Porter, assistant professor of Recreation, Park and Tourism Administration at Western Illinois University, is part of the project. Listen to the audio link above for his explanation of how organizers will gauge success.

Porter also says local gardens can make healthier food more easily available to more people.

"It's cheaper to buy pre-processed food or go to McDonald's and eat from the dollar menu than it is to buy fresh vegetables," says Porter. "And it's obviously hard to get local vegetables in some cases." He hopes the community gardens will change that for some people.

Porter is in charge of writing a grant proposal for the USDA to consider. He's hoping for at least $60,000 per year for three years.

The money will help pay for a Peace Corps fellow through the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs. That person will lead gardening, cooking, and nutrition classes as well as a mentor program.

Any money awarded through the grant must be matched by the community in cash or "in-kind" donations such as labor, equipment, and transportation. Each hour provided will be translated into a $10 contribution when the grant application is written.

Porter says even if the grant does not come through, there is enough support to start the community gardens. But he says the grant will allow the project to start stronger and larger.

He also says the project could be studied to help the USDA determine what makes community food initiatives succeed or fail.

Possible locations for gardens include the WIU campus, Horn Field Campus, the Macomb skate park, and McDonough County Public Housing sites.

Local groups and agencies involved in the project include the Food Initiatives Group, Western Illinois Regional Council, the City of Macomb, the Macomb Park District, the McDonough County Housing Authority, Loaves & Fishes, the Macomb High School Ecology Club, and the West Prairie FFA.

Those wishing to get involved can contact Rob Porter at r-porter@wiu.edu .