Nestled on Second Street between Cedar and Oak streets is a garden that has harvested more than 450 pounds of produce this year.
Boy Scout Troop 77, consisting of boys ages 11 to 17 from the Ottawa and West Franklin school districts, is in its second year of making a difference in the community with its Garden of Hope.
“We help out Hope House,” Chuck Stevens, scout master, said. “We go there once a month and help stock shelves, sweep the floors. That’s kind of our charity of choice. About three years ago, Hope House lost a lot of their money, they lost a lot of their charitable contributions. We thought we would help them out by raising produce, that they in turn give to their clients.”
Within the garden, vegetables and herbs of every kind can be found, including green beans, corn, tomatoes, peppers, jalapeños, cucumbers, lettuce, radishes, watermelon, onions, basil, rosemary, turnips and peas. The list goes on.
Most of the boys didn’t know much about gardening before starting last year, Stevens said.
“It was kind of a learning experience for a lot of them and for their parents as well,” he said. “...We did take some of the tomatoes and jalapeños and onions and we made some salsa last year and canned it. We took it on camp outs, so they could put it on eggs or whatever they wanted. There’s lot of opportunities to teach, and we try to take every opportunity we can.”
Ethan Burgoon, one of the scouts in Troop 77, said there is satisfaction in the work.
“I just started a year ago,” Burgoon said. “I like planting and keeping the boxes weeded, so the plants can grow better.”
The scouts tend to the garden about every other Wednesday, picking or harvesting produce, and even planting, depending on the time of the season.
“[Two weeks ago], we were there and we picked all the green beans and took them to Hope House,” Stevens said. “And then we replanted green beans again because you can get two or three crops per year.”
Last year, they harvested 587 pounds, and are on pace to surpass that number, Stevens said. They take at least one load a week to Hope House, averaging around 45 to 50 pounds a week.
Aaron Quillen, a scout in Troop 77, has worked on the Garden of Hope for two years.
“It’s a lot of fun to get out here and help,” Quillen said.
Eventually, another aspiration is for the garden to have a greenhouse, which would be another Eagle Project, Stevens said.
It’s important for the boys to understand that you have to give back to your community, he added.
“The national average for a scout’s community service hours is 11 hours per scout per year,” Stevens said. “Last year, my group of 11 boys had 578 hours of community service. We way exceed the national average. We work at Hope House, we work at the garden, we do other community service things around town.
“We’re trying to be known as the scout troop if you need some help doing something, we’re the guys to give a hand.”
The garden, by design, is set for others to eventually take it over, Stevens said, citing a larger area will be needed for his troop next year. Spots are available to the public to grow food for themselves, he added, the only rule being they ask that 10 percent of whatever is grown is donated to either ECKAN or Hope House.
For those interested in a plot at the Garden of Hope, contact ECKAN at (785) 242-7450.