ELKHART -- The ground is still frozen, but some local natural food advocates already have their minds focused on gardening.
The Elkhart Local Food Alliance, a loosely connected group of area residents who advocate for and educate about locally grown food, is planning to start a new community garden in the coming months.
The growing area will be at the Jubilee House, 1320 Prairie St., a building that houses seven young adults enrolled in a Mennonite Voluntary Service unit.
There's not a lot of ground around the house, organizers said, but it has enough space to demonstrate ways residents can grow fresh produce in tight areas.
"It's really going to be an interactive place," said Nicole Bauman, neighborhood food coordinator for ELFA, "where we can invite neighborhoods in so they can learn or help out, or formally attend a workshop."
The organization hopes to have events centered around the garden several times a month, Bauman said. It plans to work with 4-H youths and master gardeners, while also bringing in school and neighborhood groups to show students and adults how food is grown and how it can be done at home.
The food alliance, Bauman said, is a group primarily centered around a desire to increase access to quality food in urban areas.
"Our neighborhood is one that's really depressed economically," she said. "There's not a lot of resources. We're trying to create resources in ways that are sustainable economically."
The Jubilee House, next door to Prairie Street Mennonite Church, already serves as a community gathering area, she said, hosting a free community meal once a week. The alliance hopes the new garden helps residents grow produce, but also grow as a neighborhood.
"We really see it as a way of strengthening the community," she said. "But also growing a great garden."
For more information call Bauman at 536-0225 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
SPOT YOU PLOT
If you live in the City with a Heart and are interested in gardening but don't have the space, there are several places that can help get your hands in the soil.
In addition to the new garden at the Jubilee House, the city has three community gardens with plots available to the public. They include:
* Airport Community Garden, Airport Road, off C.R. 7 or Edwardsburg Avenue.
* Hudson Sterling Community Garden, corner of York and Bar streets
* Elkhart Environmental Center, 1717 E. Lusher Ave.
Plots range in size from 12-by-14 feet to 20-by-20 feet. They are available to people living in apartments, condominiums or houses without space to garden. Gardeners of all skill levels are welcome, and groups such as scout troops, school clubs and neighborhoods are encouraged to rent a plot.
Gardeners pay a small fee for water and maintenance. Plots are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.
An informational meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. March 25 at the Elkhart Environmental Center. Call 293-2572 for more information.