There’s much more growing than vegetables at The Greenway Table. Along with the lettuce and potatoes and beets and cucumbers, there is a growth in knowledge of how such a small garden can lead to a more healthy and satisfying life.
The Greenway Table is the brainchild of Jennifer Norton, who serves as its director, and others who joined with her to help create the garden. It is located at the intersection of 20th Street N.E. and Parker Street, on property donated by the Cleveland City Schools and the Fillauer family.
“Our mission is to enhance and enable communities through the power of food,” said Norton. “We are educating the community about the significance of food as it relates to our environment, economy and society while stressing the importance of making healthy food choices.”
Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the educational opportunities for area students at the Greenway Table. Just this past week, several school groups were at the garden preparing the soil and planting seeds.
“Right now, we are in the middle of the busiest month trying to get everything in the ground in between all the rain that we have been getting,” explained Joe St. John, farm manager. He said that at the present time, vegetables that have been planted include lettuce, onions, strawberries, broccoli, cabbage, radishes, beets, arugula, spinach, basil, tomatoes, beans and potatoes.
Okra, corn, melons, squash, cucumbers, peppers and zucchini will be planted a little later, he noted.
The students who have visited the garden have done more than just get their hands dirty working in the field. They are taking knowledge they learn in class and enhancing that with practical action.
“I have a lot of students who go home and grow things in pots,” said Lu Ann Carey, who teaches agriculture at Bradley Central High School. “But for them to actually see the garden and be able to work in it, go back home and say they now know how to lay down a row, gives them even more experience than in a classroom setting.”
She said it is a win-win situation for her students to be involved with the Greenway Table.
“We also see how working together leads to even more success, in gardening, but also in their future lives,” she said. “That’s one of Jennifer’s main objectives … to teach the community how to work together and how to produce something valuable together.”
United Way of Bradley County’s Community Investment Team saw how beneficial this project could be in promoting the health, wellness and quality of life of local citizens. That led to United Way providing a grant, through the Bradley Memorial Health Endowment Fund, to The Greenway Table for the past two years.
“The exciting thing about this program is that it is such a unique educational tool,” said Matt Ryerson, United Way vice president of Community Investment Strategies. “To use an actual functioning community garden to teach children the importance of food and the life cycle is basic and extraordinary at the same time.
“We are very pleased with our partnership with the Greenway Table and very impressed with the way Jennifer and her team have led this initiative in partnering with our local schools to educate children,” he added.
Norton said the United Way grant made this possible.
“Community organizations take a few years, if you will, to get off the ground and get their foundation established,” Norton explained. “The hospital endowment grant provided through United Way has helped us get started. We have had other funding and we sell vegetables, but without the United Way grant, I don’t know if we could have started The Greenway Table and continued it to where we are today.”
Norton and St. John said they hope to see The Greenway Table continue to grow and be a source of not only food, but information, to Bradley County.
“We’re not unrealistic,” Norton said. “We don’t think that cute gardens can feed the world, but we do think that urban farms can make an impact on people’s eating habits and on their community relations.”
St. John added students and others who work with The Greenway Table learn that there is much more to it than just watching the plants grow to maturity.
“It’s not just about farming, it’s about the economy, it’s about the environment, it’s about our culture, and it’s about slowing down and appreciating some of the simpler things in life,” added St. John. “We have grown into the convenient way of getting our food and have forgotten where our food actually comes from, how that affects our finances and how it affects our health.”
To learn more about The Greenway Table, you can visit the organization’s website at www.thegreenwaytable.org or check out their Facebook page. Nicolas Lillios has also donated office space for The Greenway Table in downtown Cleveland near the site of the farmers market on First Street.