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Grow and Give Garden – the Heart of Community

Recently, someone from our group attended an event at the Grow and Give Garden east of town on the property of Fairbury Fastener along Route 24.  For those of you who haven’t seen the sign, the garden was created by the Spence Farm Foundation with the collaboration of many individual volunteers and sponsoring businesses.

This event held at the garden brought together sponsors, the volunteers (children and adults), farmers, and health practitioners, including the president of OSF/St. James, to experience and taste the fruits of this project.  Volunteers include children from Forrest, Fairbury, Cropsey, Congerville, Roberts and Chenoa.

Executive Director of Spence Farm Foundation, Erin Meyer, explains, “The goal for 2016 is to have a beautiful garden that produces incredible edibles, to engage a community of volunteers (kids and adults alike), create educational experiences, and share the harvest with the area food pantries and garden volunteers.”

Ben Nelson, a Stewards of the Land farmer who is the “boots on the ground” Spence Farm Foundation garden coordinator for the project says the Grow and Give Garden has even inspired two boys from the Boys and Girls Club to now want gardens of their own.

Most of the food grown at the Grow and Give Garden goes to area food pantries where Kathy Cook the coordinator of the Fairbury Food Pantry explains the produce has been well received.  This year’s produce includes potatoes, onions, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and greens.  A “pollinator row” of flowering plants is also planted to attract beneficial insects to the garden.

As of August 20th the garden has yielded over 550 pounds of produce for the local food pantries that include the Fairbury Food Pantry, the Forrest Food Pantry, Gridley Food Pantries and the First Baptist Church of Fairbury Community Meals.

Nelson says, “It is the basic human right.  I think everyone should have access to healthy produce, not just somebody who can afford to buy organic at the grocery store.”

The Spence Farm Foundation is especially thankful to the Grow and Give Garden sponsors who include: OSF St. James-John W. Albrecht Medical Center, Diamond Brothers, Bluestem Bank, Dave’s Supermarket, First Baptist Church, Janacek Chiropractic, Kilgus Farmstead, Munz-Hermes Insurance and First State Bank of Forrest.  Also worthy of mentioning are “in-kind” sponsors Cascade Gardens, Darrell Ifft, Grani’s Acres, Nussbaums, Spence Farms and State Farm.

Jenny Steffen, a physician’s assistant at OSF Medical Group is the volunteer coordinator and community health advocate for the Garden.  Speaking as a health professional, she says, “Our objective at OSF St. James is to increase access to healthy fruits and vegetables and promote healthy families.  The Grow and Give Garden is a potential solution to address our county’s needs.”

“The service provided to our citizens through volunteerism is just another example and testament of how small town life here in the Fairbury and the surrounding areas is and always will be the best life you can find!” concludes Bobbi McKeon, owner of Heart’s Desire and coordinator of the Specialty Shops group.

Please call Bobbi at (815) 692-4500 or email fairbury@fairburyILattractions.com with any stories, ideas or suggestions for interesting topics to write for our community.