Sunday, March 7, 2010

Rural King, ACES, Community Members Meet To Organize Free Community Garden

Ten of us gathered around tables in a small banquet room at Ryan's restaurant on Thursday, drawn together by the prospect of a community garden in the grass lot owned by Rural King in north Champaign.

Doug DeLong, right, organized us all through a meeting set up by CCNET, an informal network for sustainability in Champaign County. He did a similar thing in Sullivan, Illinois. His motto is, "Conquering world hunger one block at a time." He's set up a blog for projects he helps organize called Local Victory Gardens.

In the clip below, he talks about what drives him.

Four Rural King employees were at the meeting including Rhonda Grisamore, store manager. "I'm all about community involvement," she told us.

Rural King will provide the 12' X 12' garden plots for free and the water to keep them alive. Organizers are working on a way to capture rainwater that falls from Rural King's roof into rain barrels for watering the garden. Gardeners will provide their own seed and planting tools. Rhonda, who used to live in Baytowne Apartments, which are located near Rural King, will send a special invite to apartment dwellers there encouraging them to use the garden space offered by Rural King.

Dawn Blackman, left, six-year volunteer steward of the Randolph Street Community Organic Garden, attended, too. She said people have been signing up since January for plots on Randolph St. and she may need to send people to the Rural King community garden. Seniors from Washington Square apartments share the gardening responsibilities with students from the Motherlands Culture Club -- the after school program sponsored by the Champaign Church of the Brethren. In addition to eating their homegrown favorites, the Randolph Street Garden provides food baskets to Empty Tomb and vegetable soup to the TIMES Center, a homeless shelter for men in Champaign.

Dan Anderson is with the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences (ACES)at Illinois. As an outreach ag specialist, he'll serve as the main coordinator of the Rural King Community Garden and main contact. He may be reached at 217-621-7974 or via email,

In the clip below, he tells us why he's involved.

My neighbors, Dane and Theresa, were also there. We serendipitously met at the entrance to Ryan's not knowing we were going to the same meeting. They have a big garden in their yard. Dane's interest is as a law student around the idea of a food clinic. Theresa is an architectural student and wants to help with the design of capturing the rainwater and reusing it for the gardeners.

As for me, I am pumped about the growing local foods movement and I see how it fits into the overall effort to combat obesity in our community. So I'll keep blogging about it hoping to connect people to these inspiring efforts.

Kimberlie Kranich is director of community engagement at Illinois Public Media and may be reached at

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