TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Community gardens throughout the town give people in the area an opportunity to make a direct impact on their own health as well as the health of the community. 

With many people struggling in the current economic climate, community gardens offer a way to cut expenses and avoid high-inflation costs while also giving back to the community. Community gardens in the area also provide support to multiple non-profits. With Spring offering a fresh start, people can begin their own gardening or reach out to their local community gardens.

“We’re in a food desert, we are terribly in a food desert,” said Patty Weaver, ISU Community Garden Director while standing on the back porch of the ISU’s Office of Sustainability overlooking the community garden.

“But you can go to the grocery store and eat all the organic produce you want to, it’s not anything near this quality as what you get from a community garden, or it can be in your backyard. It’s not quite the same as actually digging in the soil and getting that endorphin rush and picking your own produce and taking it home to eat, fresh out of the garden. They’re higher in quality and nutrition, it’s fresh-picked, it’s not grown to be stored and traveled. So it’s fresh right off the vine. You can’t get anything better than that,” Weaver explained.

Having started as an Indiana State University initiative, the ISU Community Garden started with only 50 plots when it began operations 16 years ago in 2008. The garden now has over 160 plots with various types of raised beds providing a variety of accessibility for gardeners. Many of the plots have been adopted by community members who grow their produce for the purpose of giving back to local charities, organizations, and neighborhoods in need.

While ISU’s community gardens and food forest helps to provide the area with great opportunities, there are other organizations close by that are also working toward the same goal. Rethink Inc. not only provides the community with access to gardens, but also to zero-waste options such as shampoo bars, bamboo toothbrushes, and other biodegradable products.

“So many people try to rely on recycling, but it’s really not sustainable or as easy as waste reduction. A lot of the time recycled waste still ends up in landfills,” explained Shikha Bhattacharyya the executive director of Rethink Inc.

Bhattacharyya and many others in the community work to keep the gardens, zero-waste store, plastic-upcycling program, and other Rethink Inc. efforts going. Jacob Hollen, Rethink Inc. board member, and garden manager shared some of the ways the community has shown an appreciation for the gardens.

“This kind of became my baby, and so I started learning a lot about everything, but I’ve had so many people in the community come up and just say, ‘Hey, thank you, this looks amazing. It was overgrown and just full of trash and nonsense before,’ so that part makes it worth it,” Hollen said.

Hollen also described how residents have gotten involved by donating seeds and other items to the garden, noting one particular local who donated heirloom pole bean seeds that have reportedly been in the resident’s family for 100 years, while local children from the nearby school have also shown an interest in the garden and the produce that’s being grown.

“Then more and more people came up, and since there’s a school right there, you’ll just have kids come up and ask ‘Hey, what’s this? Can I eat this?’ and I say, ‘Yeah, that’s what it’s for.”

For those in the Wabash Valley that are interested in getting involved with a local community garden or are looking for ways to live green, check out the following locations and resources: