WIC Community Garden needs help

Louis Syball, volunteer garden manager, has been overseeing operations since 2014

Louis Syball, volunteer garden manager, has been overseeing operations since 2014

By Brandon Hearn

Tucked next to the Johnson County Health Services Building, 11875 South Sunset Dr., Olathe, is a small but mighty garden, dedicated to providing fresh produce to clients in the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program and other residents experiencing food insecurity.

Established in May 2013 the Johnson County WIC Community Garden and Orchard is located on a quarter-acre green space as a program of the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.

With technical assistant from Johnson County K-State Extension Office, county employees, community members and WIC recipients volunteer their time weekly (every Tuesday morning) to seed, hoe, prune, stake, mulch, harvest and more depending on the season.

Through the help of dedicated volunteers, we have seen the garden grow from a single bed to the 13 60-foot-long beds that currently make up the garden plot. In addition, 20 fruit trees, bearing apples, peaches and pears, are also busy at work. The trees were provided by the Giving Grove program (https://www.givinggrove.org/).

Like many community gardens, the WIC Garden is dependent on volunteers to help prepare, harvest and maintain the garden plot.

An average of 4,000 pounds of produce are harvested each year. Even through the unique challenges from COVID-19, more than 3,000 pounds of produce were still harvested and donated. The produce is donated to WIC clients or to area food pantries.

Everything from potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, carrots, sweetcorn, leeks, garlic and even cantaloupe, just to name a few, are grown, allowing the people who receive the produce to get a healthy variety.

Volunteers are always needed. Workdays are on Tuesdays from 8 to 11 a.m. from April through October. No gardening experience is necessary. Tools and guidance are provided by the Johnson County K-State Research and Extension Office and other experienced volunteers.

Pop-up Farmer’s Market days will also be taking place on the second Thursday of the month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. between June and September. During these events, residents can purchase produce to help support the WIC program, work in the garden and try recipes from Master Food Volunteers.

This volunteer opportunity is perfect for any age group, gardening experts or those just getting started, or for anyone who just wants to get outside and meet people. All are welcome at the WIC Community Garden.

More information on volunteer opportunities can be found at: https://www.jocogov.org/ search for: WIC Community Garden. For additional details, please email brandon.hearn@jocogov.org or call 913-715-6936.

Brandon Hearn is environmental health specialist for the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment