Sprouting Hope Community Garden is accepting applications for “Homegrown,” a program designed to support eight home gardens in the Marion area and to encourage the growing of healthy organic produce at home.

According to Jason Von Kundra, project coordinator, the “Homegrown” program is funded through a grant from Grow Appalachia, a community-based program in partnership with Berea College in Kentucky and JP’s Peace, Love and Happiness Foundation.

Eight local families will be selected from the applications submitted and will receive $400 in organic gardening supplies and a series of educational sessions to them help grow and reap the benefits of a successful home garden. The deadline for application submission is March 16. Those selected to participate in the program will be notified by April 1.

An information session has been set for March 2 at 6 p.m. in the fellowship hall of First United Methodist Church in Marion. Von Kundra will explain what Sprouting Home will provide for the eight home gardens and what will be expected from the gardeners. Applications will be available at the information session.

Sprouting Hope will provide soil samples, seeds, plants, organic fertilizer, soil amendments, organic pesticides, fungicides, season extension supplies, fencing, irrigation supplies, tools and canning supplies. Tilling services will be available. Classes will include garden planning, organic gardening techniques, season extension, cooking and nutrition, beekeeping and food preservation. Sprouting Hope workers will also visit the home twice a month to provide support to gardeners.

Participants will need to have a minimum of 400 square feet of land available for the garden and must provide the labor. They are also required to attend the classes and to track the volume of produce from each crop.

Sprouting Hope began in 2012 as a partnership between Project Crossroads and the Hungry Mother Lutheran Retreat Center. The retreat had available land and Project Crossroads had a history of helping with needs in the community. From the initial 10,000-square-foot garden, Sprouting Hope has grown each year. Von Kundra was hired as program coordinator in 2013 to manage youth education and mental health support programming and to engage low-income participants in receiving food assistance.

Tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, winter squash, onions, peas, green beans, okra and bell peppers were produced during the community garden’s first two years. A perennial berry patch was created in memory of the late Dr. Frank Bauman in 2014.

In 2015, two hoop houses were added to allow for increased production through season extension. The community garden received a donation of bees and two super Langstroth hives and hopes to add additional bees and hives this year.

In 2015, Sprouting Hope produced 5,909 pounds of produce, which converts to 42,000 vegetable servings. Von Kundra said 305 families benefited from the garden’s harvest.

Food is distributed through two local food pantries in Marion – Impact International and First United Methodist Church. The Mel Leaman Free Clinic also distributes food and nutritional information, and soup kitchens are held at Marion’s senior citizen center on Tuesdays and at a local church on Thursdays.

Community garden volunteers are needed to work in the garden, to help with fund raising and grant writing, to educate those served by the program and to offer business expertise in the operating of the nonprofit.

Von Kundra said he hopes to encourage low-income and unemployed volunteers to work in the community garden, learn how to grow fruits and vegetable and then grow produce at home, “creating more of a lasting change in the community.” All volunteers who work in the garden share in the produce grown.

A volunteer schedule with work days and times can be accessed on Sprouting Hope’s website.

The community may participate in the classes sponsored by the community garden. Dates and times for classes will be announced later.

For additional information about Sprouting Hope, check out the organization’s website at www.sproutinghope.org or visit facebook.com/SproutingHope. Donations can be made by following a link on the website. Those who are interested in applying for the “Homegrown” program and unable to attend the March 2 information session may contact Von Kundra at 276-780-0420 for an application.

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