Blue Ribbon Organizations: Grow Food Grow Hope

Blue Ribbon Organizations are those organizations that go the extra mile to help their community while having a positive environmental impact. Here on MasterGardening Blog we love supporting a good cause therefore, we will occasionally be featuring these remarkable groups of people so they get the attention they deserve. The very first of these is Grow Food Grow Hope, an inspiring project helping provide real food for their community.

Guest Post by: Jessica Braun, Grow Food Grow Hope

Grow Food, Grow Hope is located in Wilmington, Ohio and is an AmeriCorps* VISTA project carried out by nine VISTA volunteers and a number of integral community partners. It is a Wilmington College sponsored project which seeks to raise awareness of the benefits of local food production, backyard and community gardening, and increasing self-sustainability in our daily food habits. Their primary focus areas include community and backyard gardening, food access, nutrition education, farmers markets, youth and community outreach and assisting the local economy through the “Buy Local” campaign.

The catalyst for the formation of Grow Food, Grow Hope was the departure of the area’s largest employer in 2008.  When the business abruptly took 8,000 jobs from the county with a population of just over 43,000, unemployment skyrocketed.  Numerous community members were facing poverty and challenges in providing for their families for the first time in their lives.  Faculty and staff at Wilmington College, which has a history steeped in service and agriculture, developed Grow Food, Grow Hope in an attempt to allow all community members greater access to fresh and nutritious foods.

As an organization, they facilitate a community garden on the Wilmington College campus, where families and volunteers tend to 40 plots of kitchen-ready vegetables and herbs. There are also community gardens at local apartment complexes and retirement communities.  This year they were able to expand their Backyard Garden Project from 20 to 35 gardens in which families receive garden beds at their own homes and are taught the basics of gardening through visits by staff and volunteers.

Grow Food Grow Hope also maintains a Demonstration Garden at J.W. Denver Williams Memorial Park, edible landscaping garden beds downtown which benefit Sugartree Ministries, and a small garden at the Clinton County Homeless Shelter where tenants tend the beds with weekly visits from the program staff.  They work with the Chair of Wilmington College Agricultural Department, Monte Anderson, and Wilmington College Farm Manager, Randy Gerber, who have devoted 44,000 square feet  on the Wilmington College farm for bulk vegetable production and distribution to local food pantries. They also partner with the city of Wilmington and the Clinton County Regional Planning Commission in a Buy Local First campaign, and the Clinton County Farmer’s Market, as well as local growers and farmers to create the Clinton County Fresh Network.

As an AmeriCorps* VISTA program, Grow Food, Grow Hope’s service to Wilmington and the people in their community is the primary concern. Their aim is to engage, empower and interact with local citizens, and invite you to join them in their efforts to reduce the effects of poverty. By growing a little food, we can sow a lot of hope.

You can follow GFGH’s progress, donate, or check out our wish list online at, on Twitter ( and on Facebook.

For more information call (937) 382-6661 ext. 321, or email


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