From desert to garden

7:00 pm

Spring and summer mornings usually find Danielle Guerin watering a formerly overgrown plot at North Temple Avenue on Indianapolis’ near northeast side. In the early evenings, she weeds and tends a variety of robust vegetable plants, as well as plans their harvest and distribution. In between, she works at her full-time job.

Over this winter, Guerin will use the information she gained at Purdue Extension’s Urban Agriculture Certificate course to plan next year’s crop. New knowledge in hand, she is confident the garden will be even more productive and can engage the community, especially its youth.

She started the community/market garden, known as Temple Gardens, in spring 2018 in an area the city has identified as a food desert, where residents lack access to fresh fruit, vegetables and other whole foods. Temple Gardens’ mission is to improve the availability of healthful food by donating or selling vegetables at low cost.

Purdue Extension designed the yearlong curriculum to prepare city-based agriculture leaders like Guerin for success in urban organic crop production. In its third year in Marion County and its first in Allen County, the program attracted for-profit and nonprofit market farmers and gardeners, community garden organizers, school garden leaders and urban homesteaders.

The course provides a roadmap for each participant to clarify their project’s mission and to build community partnerships for stronger impact. The students learn to think like an enterprise to achieve economic sustainability.

“My project grew as I went to the class,” Guerin says. “I’m excited to have a plan for April to November and fully follow it through next year.”

participants in Marion County have completed an Urban Agriculture Certificate.