First Stakeholders Meeting Held for RUSS Gardens

Mansfield, OH (October 17, 2017) -- The first stakeholder meeting for RUSS (Reaching Urban Students with Sustainability) Garden Planning Process was held on October 12, 2017, in the Eisenhower Board Room on The Ohio State University at Mansfield Campus. The group, which consists of campus and community members, met to discuss how to potentially develop the RUSS Gardens throughout the region.

The concept for Russ Gardens is to implement standardized schoolyard production gardens as living classrooms in Mansfield City Schools and across Richland County with meaningful opportunities for hard-to-reach learners and to provide fresh produce to school meals.

The hope is for the gardens also to become a part of the Mansfield community by providing a sustainable food system to address the food crisis across the region.

Kip Curtis, associate professor of history at Ohio State Mansfield, explains, “We came up with a concept looking at how we might use urban agriculture robustly as a way of intervening in some of the crises that are taking place in the rust belt communities.” He continues, “We are thinking about how to create high production sites in the city on small plots.”

The group held roundtable discussions regarding fiscal challenges, curriculum and learning content, and community partner engagement. Some of the topics discussed included impact and value for the community as a whole as well as well as concerns about the need for skilled labor partners to implement the learning and growing initiative.

Attendees for the stakeholder meeting included Richland County WIC Program, Richland County Public Health, City of Mansfield, Ohio Farm Bureau, Ontario Local Schools, Mansfield City Schools, Mansfield Spanish Immersion School, Richland County Foundation, Mid-Ohio Educational Service Center, Richland Community Development Group, Richland County Commissioners, Kingwood Center Gardens, and North End Community Improvement Collaborative.

This project is/was made possible through a Connect and Collaborate Grant, a program supporting innovative and scholarly engagement programs that leverage academic excellence of The Ohio State University in mutually beneficial ways with external partners.

The RUSS Gardens Planning Process is part of a larger series of community meetings and consultations to explore how different approaches to food system intervention can be used to address a cross section of economic development, educational achievement, and community health and wellness concerns.