Community gardens date back to WWII


COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Wallace Gardens in Grandview Heights is springing to life now that the threat of frost has ended, while following social distancing guidelines.

The urban gardens five miles northwest of downtown Columbus have a unique history that dates back to 1943 during the height of World War II, before evolving into a community garden after the war ended two years later.

Victory gardens, which numbered in the millions at the height of World War II, were a show of patriotism, supporting U.S. troops and civilians overseas by supplying fresh fruits and vegetables. Modern community gardens encourage local organic farming and donations to food pantries and shelters.

George Urlin, an early local developer who resided across the street, donated the land off Grandview Avenue, sandwiched between Goodale Boulevard and the railroad tracks just east of Dublin Road. The name of the gardens honors Jim Wallace, a city treasurer in the 1970s.

Mike Patterson, director of Grandview Heights Park and Recreation, said there are 99 plots tended to by Grandview Heights and Marble Cliff residents from April to November. “We have some very experienced gardeners who put a lot of time into it” mixed with beginners who enjoy the recreational and rewarding aspects of growing their own veggies.

“The Grandview Heights High School Key Club donates their produce to local shelters and/or food banks,” Patterson said.

Some experts who have plots share their expertise by offering educational classes and resources for urban gardeners.

Tim McDermott, an Ohio State University Extension Educator with the College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences, and a resident community gardener, described “a landslide of interest in growing your own food at home as we maintain social distance, yet want to provide for our personal and family food security and keep our health and wellness intact.”

“Community gardens have a little bit of challenges in terms of the social distance component, but otherwise are dynamite and dynamic places to grow within our communities,” McDermott said.

“We maintain social distance here. There is no tool sharing. The water was initially turned off to make sure that we didn’t have a place to congregate,” McDermott said.

McDermott noted that the gardens are “a vibrant part of the Grandview community for decades, and act not only as a city park but as a space, where community members can grow their own healthy, nutritious, local food.”

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