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East Aberdeen to be home to proposed 'Harvest of Hope' garden

Aberdeen could get its own community garden east of Route 40

Residents of Aberdeen's eastern neighborhoods may not have to travel as far for fresh fruits and vegetables.

An AmeriCorps volunteer is spearheading a community garden project by the Boys & Girls Club on East Bel Air Avenue where local residents can cultivate their own garden plots, among other features.

Anne Otih, who has been with AmeriCorps for six months and is originally from northern Virginia, explained her vision for a "Harvest of Hope" garden to the city council at a recent council work session.

The garden would provide healthy, affordable food, as well as exposure to different foods, in an area considered a "food desert," meaning it lacks access to fresh produce or other healthy food, she said.

The project would feature 40 garden beds by March of 2015 and, ultimately, up to 100 as the Boys & Girls Club gets grant funding, next to the parking lot behind the Boys & Girls Club.

The plots would cost $20 per family, she said.

A teaching garden would also include teaching beds and nutrition education under the moniker "Operation Grow Green."

An outdoor learning lab would have a weather station, an aquaponics pond, observation hives and an outdoor classroom.

Other features include a food forest with fruit and nut trees, a greenhouse, a giant chess set, a tire pollinator garden, compost bins and a tool shed.

Boys & Girls Clubs would pay for the project using grant funding, and the entire plan could cost about $70,000, Otih said.

Otih hopes to have the first phase of the project, with trees for the food forest and pilot education classes, underway by February 2016.

Opening day for the garden is scheduled for spring of 2016, with all the beds done by November 2016, she said.

"Our project is going to be really cool," Otih said.

Council members seemed supportive of the concept.

"I think it's a good idea. I see it as a positive way for students or anyone to learn new skills, plus they will be able to put those skills in practice for a long time," Councilwoman Ruth Ann Young said.

"I am originally a country girl and we did a lot of gardening," Young added. "I think those skills will stick with those young people for a while."

Councilman Stephen Smith also said: "I like the concept a lot. I am a gardener. I raise tomatoes and vegetables a lot."

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