Ross County Master Gardener Volunteers donated nearly 5,000 pounds of fresh produce to local food pantries and other organizations. They were the winning county in the small county division and will receive the $500 prize to be used in next year's garden. Here is their story by Ivory Harlow.
Ross is a rural county nestled in the hills of Appalachian Ohio. Like many areas of Appalachia, the community is tight-knit and family focused. Ross County is a place where residents support one another and lend a helping hand to neighbors when one is needed.
The Ross County Master Gardener Volunteers donated 4,946 pounds of fresh garden produce to local food banks in 2017 as part of the Grow Ohio program, a food donation program sponsored by the Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program. The goal of the program is to feed hungry residents in food deserts or without means to purchase fresh food.
Ross County Grow Ohio project leaders are Dave Porter and Bill Stowe. Dave Porter became a certified Master Gardener in 2013. That year he initiated a partnership with Alvis House, a half-way home for rehabilitated ex-offenders, to teach residents how to grow food. The partnership began on a small correctional facility plot. Dave since expanded the project onto additional property near Frankfort, Ohio. As a result, Master Gardeners and Alvis House residents produced and donated more healthy and nutritious food in 2017 than ever before!
Bill Stowe became a Master Gardener in 2013 and obtained Community Garden Specialist training in 2017. Bill has consulted with several local groups to help them start a community garden project. He has forged support relationships with local organizations such as the SHARE community garden and Chillicothe Ross County Public Library System Adult Education Program. Bill is passionate about growing food, feeding friends and neighbors, and teaching Ross residents how to grow their own food. In 2017 he taught “Victory garden: growing for food sufficiency” to area residents.
In 2017 thirteen Ohio counties competed to grow and glean the largest volume of fresh food for donation, but participants will attest they don't do it for the reward- they do it for their neighbors and their community. Counties not participating in Grow Ohio also donated fresh produce to local agencies.