Organizers of the New Albany Community Garden have received a $10,000 grant from the Aetna Foundation to install a permanent water source for 86 plots, which were used by 70 adults and 76 children last year.
"My vision for the garden is for it to be a demonstration garden as well as a working garden, and we hope to inspire residents to do more in their own backyards," said garden organizer Suzanne Lucas.
The garden was established in 2011 with 16 raised garden plots on the southeast side of New Albany Village Hall.
In 2012, the garden grew to 76 4-by-4-foot plots and 10 2-by-2-foot plots installed for children.
New Albany-Plain Local students got involved, doing gardening demonstrations and working in the garden. Members of the nonprofit New Albany Women's Network also started a plot with the intent of donating all produce to the Village Coalition Against Hunger, a local food pantry that serves New Albany.
NAWN donated $1,500 in 2011 to install five rain barrels on the south side of the New Albany Police Department's garage.
"The five rain barrels work beautifully when it rains," Lucas said.
But, if there is a dry year, Lucas said, watering the plants is difficult.
In 2012, she said, the city service department filled the rain barrels several times to keep the garden fruitful.
"The five 75-gallon rain barrels that harvest rainfall from the New Albany Police Department rooftops and sustained the community garden in 2011 were inadequate for the water demands placed on the garden during the 2012 growing season," the grant application said. "Additional pressure of low rainfall during the summer of 2012 made successful vegetable gardening in the New Albany Community Garden near impossible for participants. Most gardeners resorted to hauling gallons of water from their homes on a daily basis to prevent plants from dying."
Lucas said the gardeners will use grant money to install a well or connect to the city's irrigation system that supports landscaping around Village Hall.
"We're looking at different options," she said.
The grant also will pay for a community garden sign and to install more garden plots. A portion of the funds will be used to advertise the garden and purchase tools for gardeners.
Maria Mendez, community relations director of Aetna's mid-America region, said the grant helps fulfill Aetna's mission of trying to become an integral part of the community, supporting not only Aetna employees but the greater community in which the employees live and work.
She said Aetna typically supports grassroots initiatives such as the garden, which is volunteer operated.
The New Albany Community Garden was organized by volunteers from the nonprofit organization Healthy New Albany, which was formed through the New Albany Community Foundation to encourage healthy living in the city.