WCCGA BOARD … Before wrapping it up at the Garden to table Event on September 8, 2022, WCCGA Director Jenni McKarns (second from left) introduced the Board members: from left to right, Matt Baker (grower), Phil Klingler (treasurer), Gloria Gilcher (Kunkle Garden Trustee), Suzanne and Gary Powell (Trustees of North Williams St. Garden), (secretary) Cathy Cooley and Laura Higgins (master gardener volunteer from Defiance). (PHOTOS BY REBECCA MILLER, STAFF)
By: Rebecca Miller
“Delicious” does not even begin to describe the flavors served up by area chefs at the Garden to Table event held on September 8, 2022 by the Williams County Community Gardening Association.
Each of the round tables held a fresh display as the centerpiece, from carrots picked that morning to leeks and Swiss Chard, and one lucky guest got to take theirs home with them.
Near the kitchen at Parlor 1861, one table was laid with a large variety of fresh vegetables, sliced and ready to devour along with two scrumptious dips as the appetizer for the evening.
Prepped and set out by area grower and WCCGA Board member, Matt Baker, selections included strips of Kohlrabi, unsnapped green beans and slices of hot peppers within the variety.
The dips were a creamy roasted carrot and coriander humus with a moat of parsley oil and a creamy red pepper hummus with basil oil, both more than worthy of their purpose.
Served by the lovely Fountain City Queens, Teen Miss Caylin Brenneman and Junior Miss Addison Witte, guests enjoyed a finely julienned Beetroot Salad with a drizzle of Aronia Berry dressing.
The salad was prepared by the seniors in their Culinary Arts Management class at Four County and plated by their instructor, Chef Herold Peter.
(The recipe can be acquired by emailing email@example.com) Next up on the menu was a large plate of pasta swirls with a touch of red pepper flakes, bacon and Swiss Chard freshly picked that morning, served over a scoop of lemony ricotta cheese, made by Susie’s Lunch Chef June Fry.
GARDENING DIRECTORS … Jenni McKarns, Director of Williams County Community Gardening Association, and Yvonne Dubielak, Director of Toledo GROWs and the guest speaker at the Garden to Table Event held on September 8, 2022 in Bryan, Ohio, are seen here with the delectable salads which were served at the gathering. In the kitchen doorway, Board member Matt Baker can be seen and on the left behind McKarns is Andrea Miller, dietician at CHWC and avid gardener, both very involved with WCCGA. Matt prepared the appetizer table which is seen on the right and Andrea has taught a class on the many uses of Kale. Creamy and enticing with just the right touch of zing, plates were emptied quickly. (This recipe can be found online as Pasta with Swiss Chard Bacon and Lemony Ricotta by dicentra.)
Wrapping up the dinner for the evening, from Willow Lane Kitchen of Stryker, Ohio, was Chef Angie Pelland’s “Apple Surprise”, which could not have been tastier!
Lucious flavors of oats and sweetness, blended together with a baked apple and topped with a dollop of whipped cream, melted in happy mouths whose taste buds had been blessed by the distinctive tastes of the evening.
(Angie’s recipe can be found at thecleaneatingcouple.com/healthy-baked-apples/dessert, with her addition of ½ cup each of pecans and raisins to the basic recipe.)
All of the chefs outdid themselves, using locally grown fruits and vegetables. Kudos to all involved in making the dinner a grand success.
WCCGA Director Jenni McKarns circulated through the room, full of joy as she chatted with others who were enjoying something she holds so dearly.
McKarns introduced the Board, sharing how they are deeply involved in the endeavor of bringing fresh foods to the community, but Board member Laura Higgins made sure that the guests knew that without Mrs. McKarns, this would not be happening.
An educator for all of her adult life, Jennifer McKarns, or Jenni as she prefers to be called, established this organization in 2017, as she saw the need for neighborhood community gardening and is passionate about gardening.
The purpose of the gathering was to raise funds for some project needs that have come to their attention in the county.
Following the meal, guests were treated to a power point presentation by Yvonne Dubielak, Executive Director of Toledo GROWs, which stands for Gardens Revitalize Our World. Dubielak, who began her talk with a laugh by saying she was jealous of the tiaras, shared that the organization began as a part of Toledo Botanical Gardens, but is now on their own since 2017.
She became the Executive Director after the group moved out on its own and is pleased with how they are so actively involved in the Toledo community.
With 120 Community Gardens in and around the Toledo area, mostly in the core of the city, they are thrilled to bring fresh food to many who might not have had it otherwise.
With the goal of Nurturing the Joy of Growing, the group educates the community about the value of local nutritious food.
“Our active urban farm and support for community gardens promote healthy eating and create a region alive with gardens,” one of the slides stated.
Besides growing gardens, Toledo GROWs provide support, material and education; manage an Urban Farm educational facility with gardens, bees, chickens and a teaching kitchen; offer ed programs for youth correlated to the state content standards; hold workshops, events and other ed opportunities for adults and families; provide volunteer opportunities that actively engage people in the community; and partner with other local organizations to better serve the community. More info on Toledo GROWs can be found at ToledoGrows.org and Yvonne
Even though Toledo has much different neighborhoods than are found in Williams County, it was good to hear stats about Toledo, as the point of having Dubielak share was to encourage other community leaders to see that this can be done in their towns as well.
For example, some of the stats for her residential area include: only 20% of area adults eat five daily servings of fruits or vegetables with 4% eating none; 72% of adults are overweight; 25.5% of Toledo residents live in poverty; 14 census tracts in the city of Toledo are food deserts/apartheids (no healthy food nearby to be purchased) and 20% of the population live in those low access areas; feeling safe is an issue as 22% of area residents feel only slightly safe in their neighborhoods and 4% feel not safe at all.
GARDEN TO TABLE SERVERS … Guests at the Garden to Table event were graciously served by Fountain City (Bryan) Queens, Teen Miss Caylin Brenneman and Junior Miss Addison Witte, who are constantly finding ways to serve the community during their reign. Seen here is Jr. Miss Witte placing the delectable “Apple Surprise” dessert prepared by area chef Angie Pelland, to one of the guests.
She tied the opportunity to garden and a sense of safety together, explaining that as neighbors work together in their own garden, they become friends which makes them feel safer.
She also pointed out that people who garden tend to eat more fruits and vegetables and Gardening motivates people to stay active longer than other activities, bringing more exercise to the community.
The 120 gardens are throughout the Metro Toledo area, cared for by schools, organizations and neighborhoods. They are as small as a city lot and as large as four acres, and all in some way serve low and moderate-income community families.
The speaker shared that the group is able to step in and help neighborhoods by removing barriers that might keep gardening from happening.
They offer free seeds and seedlings, loan tools, assist with volunteers, offer technical expertise, communicate with area leaders to help it happen, and network with others as well as providing education for community gardeners.
Their largest garden, the Robert J. Anderson Urban Agriculture Center and farm is located at 900 Oneida St., Toledo, Ohio, and is their home.
In a typical year, Toledo GROWs has the following actions: 14,000+ packets of free seeds distributed, 6000+ people served in community gardens, 5500 pounds of produce harvested at the urban farm, 5500 volunteer hours donated, 4000-6000 plants grown and distributed free, 2500 youth participating in education programs, 1000 attendees at the annual Seed Swap, 400-800 pounds of honey harvested, 300+ tools loaned, and 85-90% of those who serve have a low or moderate income.
Dubielak invited everyone present to come and enjoy their events, especially the Seed Swap which is held every February on the last Saturday of the month from noon to three at the Scott High School (2400 Collingwood).
She also said that for many it can be a hugely educational experience to come and help with the Honey Harvest.
They recently held one on August 20th and it was a great success. McKarns thanked her for coming and sharing all this encouraging information, saying that as Williams County has three Community Gardens at present, they look forward to using all they learn from Toledo GROWs to further advance their endeavors here in the county.
McKarns’ hope to influence the community with gardens is deep and her heart flowed through her words as she encouraged everyone present to get involved with any events that are held over the coming year.
“I would like to see happen in Williams County, a lot of the things that are happening in Toledo through Toledo GROWs,” she said.
McKarns introduced the Board of WCCGA, made a few announcements and Board member Laura Higgins invited everyone to go back to make their bids at the silent auction table before purchases would be awarded.
The evening ended with mingling and pleasantries, with a few enjoying some more munchies off Bakers’ well loaded appetizer table.
Rebecca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org