A new initiative under the Air Force Community Partnership Program will start producing organic produce next spring, as the housing privatization partner at Dover Air Force Base, Del., and an array of public agencies work together to re-establish a community garden near the base’s family housing.
“The main goal of this initiative is to provide healthy, nutritious locally grown food to the base families that live in Eagle Heights housing,” said James Waddington, director of the Kent Economic Partnership. “We’ve been working on a food innovation district as an economic development tool, so community gardens are an integral part of that,” Waddington said, reported the 436th Airlift Wing.
Another public benefit of the community garden will be the opportunity it provides to educate residents, young and old, about the merits of locally grown produce.
“We’re looking to work with the local elementary school here to try to have a curriculum component to bring children out here and learn how to work in the garden,” said Waddington.
The initiative has other benefits as well. “Gardens are a really good way to introduce healthy eating and physical activity,” said Andrea Keen, clinic manager for the Kent County Health Unit.
The Hunt Companies, the installation’s housing partner, broached the idea of a community garden to take advantage of an existing plot that had been neglected for years.
“The main goal of this initiative is to reach out to the community, the military families here at Dover Air Force Base housing and to get a sense of community by growing organic vegetables,” said Sophia Reeves, Hunt’s community director at Dover. “We are going to use our logo ‘Caring and Sharing’ for the sense of community and also the initiative of bringing the community together,” Reeves said.
About half of the 31 Hunt military housing communities have some type of community garden, including Moody AFB, Ga., and Patrick AFB, Fla., Reeves said.
Other stakeholders in the community garden initiative include the Kent County Community Garden Collaborative, the Delaware State University College of Agriculture and Related Sciences, Delaware Health and Social Services, Dover Department of Public Works and the personnel of Team Dover.