Photo Gallery: Springfield Community Gardens beats the heat with freeze-dried produce
This summer, OHRD toured two Springfield Community Gardens spaces: Amanda Belle’s Farm near Cox South and the Midtown Garden near Cox North, plus the SCG test kitchen on the Cox North campus. Click the image below to view full-size gallery photos from the tours.
Photos by Diana Dudenhoeffer
The Midtown Garden
SCG's longest-running garden has a diverse array of plants: okra, sweet potatoes, fruit trees, melons, blackberries raspberries, basil, peppers, "pollinator zones," and an heirloom seed garden in collaboration with the Springfield-Greene County Library District.
Heirlooms are plants that have been growing for generations. They look more like their parents compared to cross-bred varieties, which are selectively bred to be heartier. But cross-bred plants don't always taste as good, says Shannah, SCG community development coordinator, and they aren't always true to type. Conversely, heirloom varieties preserve diversity, are more stable, and are more adaptable to a farmer's environment.
The center of the garden features a small crop planted using the Three Sisters Method. The team strategically planted corn, beans, and squash to help all three grow better together. Corn has stalks on which the beans can climb. Beans can convert nitrogen in the air into a much-needed nutrient in plant roots. And finally, big squash leaves shade the ground, keep soil cool, and minimize weeds.
The Midtown Garden is also a great place to teach classes and host volunteers, says SCG community development coordinator Stephanie, thanks to a beautiful gazebo—donated by long-time Springfield resident George Deatz—that offers a perfect meeting space.
As one of around 16 lots SCG runs, The Midtown Garden is always growing despite this year's record-high temperatures. Some plants, like the raspberries and blueberries, haven't fared well this summer. But others, like the sweet potatoes, really thrive in the heat, Stephanie says.
When Shannah and Stephanie aren't tracking volunteer hours or weighing produce that comes out of the garden, they're experimenting with new ways to reduce food waste in the test kitchen across the street.
SCG uses a freeze dryer to preserve nutrients and enzymes in produce harvested from the gardens or donated by local farmers. In the future, SCG hopes to collaborate with dietetics students and experiment with more farmers to create value-added products.
Amanda Belle’s Farm
The farm was established in 2010 in partnership with the hospital and grows flowers, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and more.
Farm team coordinator Anneliese Kerr, farm site manager Cameron Bigbee, and SCG founding executive director Maile Auterson host tours around the five-acre farm. As one of only five hospital gardens in the U.S., harvests from Amanda Belle's Farm go to a community supported agriculture program for Cox Health employees.
SCG has big ideas for expansion at Amanda Belle's Farm. Auterson said the team hopes to start a propagation house on the property soon and plans to plant native flowers in the surrounding fields. Produce grown here will eventually serve food insecure patients and will fill the hospital's salad bar.
Since 2010, SCG has donated more than a million pounds of food to the Ozarks community, largely in collaboration with Ozarks Food Harvest. On the tour, attendees learned about urban agriculture, food waste diversion, and the importance of knowing where your food comes from.
The farm's two high tunnels, which protect produce from the wind and can be moved to different plots each season, are easily visible from Primrose Street — so next time you're driving near the hospital, be sure to wave hello!
Learn more about SCG at their website, springfieldcommunitygardens.org.
About the Author
Diana Dudenhoeffer is a multimedia journalist from Springfield, Missouri. She studied journalism, sustainability and documentary storytelling at Missouri State University. She is the current media intern at OHRD, writing blogposts like this one.