Olathe & Southwest Joco

Community garden in Olathe to assist WIC clients

Ten dollars per month doesn’t go very far as a budget for fresh fruits and vegetables. Who could blame women receiving that allotment from the Kansas WIC program for opting for the cheap canned varieties? says Julie Coon, of the Johnson County Health Department.

But Coon and others in county government aim to make those dollars go further. On Friday, they turned the first trowels of earth at the new WIC community garden on the department’s grounds in Olathe.

The garden, modeled after a successful one in Denver, will be tended by county volunteers and recipients of the WIC program. The vegetables will be divided among those receiving aid.

WIC, which stands for Women, Infants and Children, provides nutrition and health education and services for qualifying pregnant and nursing mothers and children under 5.

About 20 turned out on a cloudy Friday morning to plant summer crops — tomatoes, peppers, squash and cucumbers — in four beds outside the county health department building.

Ashley Ortiz, a WIC client, planted the ceremonial first tomato, an heirloom Red Zebra. Ortiz, of Olathe, said she has a little gardening experience here and at her grandmother’s home in Mexico. She’s excited to learn more and get involved in the community, she said.

The garden will do more than feed families. The county hopes it will also teach them and inspire them to start growing food at their homes, said Laura Drake, WIC program manager.

The garden is a collaboration between several government agencies. The county received a $4,475 grant through the Kansas Health Foundation and K-State Research and Extension to start the garden.