Big things are continuing to grow on The Ohio State University at Mansfield campus.
The first stakeholder meeting for RUSS (Reaching Urban Students with Sustainability) Garden Planning Process was held on October 12, 2017, in the Eisenhower Board Room on the Mansfield Campus. The group, which consists of campus and community members, met to discuss how to develop RUSS Gardens throughout the region.
The concept for Russ Gardens is to implement standardized schoolyard production gardens as living classrooms with meaningful opportunities for hard-to-reach learners.
Currently, the project is growing on the Mansfield campus with two 30-foot-by-72 foot tunnels with 22 raised beds, called the Micro-Farm. The entire site encompasses just one-third of an acre located in lot #7.
Kip Curtis, associate professor of history at Ohio State Mansfield, heads the project along with a team of dedicated faculty, staff, and students from the campus. The project was just awarded an InFACT Linkage and Leverage grant to help support the campus sustainability and urban agriculture projects. The current prototype garden was funded through a $100,000 grant from The Ohio State University’s President and Provost Council on Stability. It provides strategic advisement on the integration of sustainability practices, program, and projects through The Ohio State University.
A portion of the produce from the Micro-Farm will be donated to Mansfield residents through a partnership with North End Community Improvement Collaborative, or NECIC, to address food insecurity.
However, the idea is that additional gardens will be built in the city of Mansfield. Curtis says, “We came up with a concept looking at how we might use urban agriculture robustly as a way of intervening in some of the crises that are taking place in the rust belt communities.” He continues, “We are thinking about how to create high production sites in the city on small plots.”
RUSS gardens will be available for use by the community and local schools to give students a hands-on educational experience. Curtis explains that he also wants to get schools involved in the sites. He says, “Instead of just being a place where students can learn about carrots and broccoli, it will be a place where they can go to learn about history, social science, mathematics, and science.” In the future, he would like the gardens to be developed into cross-curricular learning where students can be in an interactive classroom.
Moving forward with the project, a series of community meetings and consultations will be held to explore how different approaches to food system intervention can be used to address a cross section of economic development, educational achievement, and community health and wellness concerns.
The pilot project will be studied over a three year period.
Attendees for the stakeholder meeting include: Richland County WIC Program, Richland County Public Health, City of Mansfield, Ohio Farm Bureau, Ontario Local Schools, Mansfield City Schools, Mansfield Spanish Immersion School, Richland County Foundation, Mid-Ohio Educational Service Center, Richland Community Development Group, Richland County Commissioners, Kingwood Center Gardens, and North End Community Improvement Collaborative.
Source, Photo: The Ohio State University at Mansfield