Kent County gardens benefit from Delaware Ag Department grants

Pictured is the community garden at the corner of Kenton and College roads in Dover. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

Pictured is the community garden at the corner of Kenton and College roads in Dover. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

DOVER — More than $2,500 worth of garden-related funding is heading to Kent County.

The grant comes as part of a statewide initiative to boost nutrition and enhance communities.

W. Reily Brown Elementary School in Dover received a $1,000 micro-grant from the state’s Department of Agriculture, targeted at improving the site’s garden in the fall.

The Kent Community Gardens Collaborative received $590 for distribution within its network of approximately 15 locations, including spots in Dover, Harrington, Smyrna, Clayton and Milford.

The Kent Economic Partnership is the source of the 501(c) charity for the collaborative. Director James Waddington said the monetary infusion “helps out tremendously.”

He said seeds purchased will help grow “vegetable gardens for raising foods accessible to the public.”

The number of local gardens has grown immensely in just two years, Mr. Waddington said.

“Doing this requires a core, dedicated group to take part in the gardening,” he said. “There are a lot more good stories than bad stories involved.”

The Kent County 4-H Afterschool Program received $950.

Gov. Jack Markell touted the pilot program designed to make Delaware a greener, healthier place to live. His proposed fiscal budget for next year aimed to double the $10,000 awarded overall to spots in Kent and New Castle counties.

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Community gardens are open to the public, and sharing the vegetables with all is encouraged.

“Urban agriculture and community gardens are an amazing way to strengthen neighborhoods and improve the quality of life,” Gov. Markell said in a prepared statement. “Over the last several years we’ve seen a tremendous growth in the community garden movement across Delaware and I’m pleased that our support is helping these neighborhood treasures impact even more families with fresh, nutritious food, connect kids with nature, and enrich the lives of the next generation.”

According to the Department of Agriculture, more than 70 community gardens exist throughout the state, mostly in New Castle County, and have been growing in eight years of Gov. Markell’s administration.

The Delaware Department of Agriculture, which has provided technical and other assistance, launched the micro-grants as another way to support these communities, said Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee in a news release.

Mr. Kee also cited support from the Delaware Urban Farm and Food Coalition, the Delaware Center for Horticulture and Delaware Cooperative Extension in boosting the program.

“From overgrown lots to school lawns, our neighborhoods have risen to the challenge and planted gardens or started small urban farms,” Mr. Kee said.

“The support that these diverse efforts have received is phenomenal, and these micro-grants are a way to continue that support in years to come.

“A small amount of funding can go a long way for a neighborhood looking to build raised beds or purchase plants and seeds.”

Applications for the next round of funding will open in the fall; more information will be posted at de.gov/urbanag.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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