Community garden taking root
Aetna Building Maintenance recently tore down an abandoned property to make way for the garden
Giving up some green beans, tomatoes and zucchini to the Ronald McDonald House is no big deal to Kerryl Williams.
"I'm willing to share," said Williams, one of several urban farmers taking advantage of new planting beds at the Aetna Building Maintenance facility, 646 Parsons Ave. in the German Village area.
The farming is free. But local green thumbs are asked to donate 10 percent of their bounty to the Ronald McDonald House, which is on the Nationwide Children's Hospital campus, just across East Livingston Avenue.
"If having fresh locally grown vegetables available helps brighten the day of families staying at Ronald McDonald House, I'm happy to help them," Williams said.
Aetna recently tore down an abandoned property to make way for the community garden, adjacent to the east of the company's headquarters.
There are 20 raised beds -- 4-feet-by-4-feet, 4-by-8 and 4-by-12 -- on the site, which takes up an entire block. They are available on a first-come, first served basis.
The property, designed by students in Ohio State University's landscape architecture program, also boasts some other green amenities, including repurposed gravel and concrete, a section planted entirely with native grasses and compost bins.
Rainwater collected from the roofs of a shelter house and the company's main building is used to irrigate the garden beds.
The garden was part of Aetna's greater investment -- to the tune of $400,000 -- in green technology, said Don Fritts, director of facility services for the company, which has been at its current location for 10 years.
The company has installed 221 solar panels and Energy Star-rated HVAC units in the main building, which are expected to drastically reduce energy costs, Fritts said.
"We're going to make our money back," he said.
Jordanne Renner, chairwoman of the German Village Go Green committee, is pleased to see another community-gardening project open up in the neighborhood.
One of the group's missions is finding available land for urban gardening, which has been a challenge in a neighborhood with little available green space, she said.
"The biggest road block in advancing community gardens is not getting the neighbors on board in digging and tending necessarily, but rather getting the land owner to truly have trust and understand that there are only positive things to come if they donate their land for this reason," she said.
Fritts said Aetna has five remaining beds available. Those interested in a plot can call 614-246-8139 or can inquire in person.