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Salem grad seeks community garden

SALEM — A Salem grad focused on the culinary arts said she wants to plant a community garden to benefit others — she just needs a location for an accessible 12×12 plot of land.

Ashley Foster recently presented a detailed proposal to the Salem Parks Commission, explaining the idea to bring people together over a common interest of food.

“There are many benefits to having a community garden,” she said.

The garden could be educational for kids to learn about growing their own food, financially beneficial for those hard hit by the pandemic so they can get vegetables and fruits they might not be able to afford, offer exercise for community members working in the garden and fellowship for senior citizens helping out or visiting.

Foster said her ideal lot would be located in one of the parks. She pledged to take care of everything the first year, including all the costs, and said her hope would be to find a group or groups of volunteers to take over the next year, to make it a community project.

She was already contacting Salem school officials and St. Paul School about involving students, which would give the kids a purpose. She also talked to the Salem Beautification Committee and talked to the owner of LiBs Market, who offered to do cooking demonstrations using vegetables from the garden.

“I love the idea,” parks commission member Lori Colian said, suggesting 4-H as another possible partner.

Commission Vice Chair Lucille Karnofel also said it was a good idea.

Commission Chair John Panezott expressed some concern after what happened at a previous community garden that was located on a plot of land near the recycling center and fire station. People lost interest and the property ended up weed-infested and had to be cleaned up by the city.

It was suggested that she contact the mayor or city Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst about that property since it’s already set up for the purpose of a community garden. Franks called Kenst the day after the commission meeting and learned the property is privately owned. The city has no control over the property.

Franks also emailed parks commission members and two of the three members indicated they didn’t want the community garden located in the parks.

Foster when contacted said she’s tried to talk with someone from the land bank about the possibility of using a land bank-owned property. She can be reached at ashley.chefology@gmail.com if anyone has a property that could be used for the garden.

Foster graduated from Kent State University with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management and while she was in school she started a group known as Chefology where students could learn about cooking. Her goal would be to found more Chefology groups in towns where there are community gardens.

She’s off for the summer but will resume her culinary education in the fall at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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