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Professor to assist in creating a healthy, local food system

Free organic gardening workshop scheduled for April 1
Jan 4, 2010
By George Mauzy

Eat your fruit and vegetables!

That is a familiar phrase that Ohio University Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics in the College of Health and Human Services David H. Holben hopes will become commonplace if his latest project comes to fruition.

Holben recently received a Fulbright Canada Eco-Leadership Program Grant that will support his ECOhio Garden Project in Athens. His project was chosen from about 50 applications from current and former Fulbright award recipients.

The Fulbright Canada Eco-Leadership program provides grantees micro-grants of up to $4,000 for sustainable projects that rely entirely on volunteers, have established community partners and have a long-term impact on the local environment.

?I am so honored to receive one of these grants,? Holben said. ?I wanted to apply so that I could assist in helping to develop a healthy, local food system in Athens. Many individuals in the region do not have access to enough food for an active, healthy life, especially in the current economic crisis.?

Holben?s ECOhio Garden Project will provide hands-on gardening training and promote other sustainable activities in the community that will contribute to developing a healthy local food system.

According to Holben, the project is much needed because if all Americans consumed the daily recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, the nation would annually need an additional 7.6 million acres of fruit and 6.5 million acres of vegetables to meet the demand.

?The underlying principle of the project is that everyone can learn to garden produce, improve their food access and to enhance the nutrient density of their diet,? Holben said.

Holben?s project has several steps:

First, a free half-day organic gardening workshop will be held on April 1 for the local community. Speakers will include master gardeners, university faculty and personnel from several community-based organizations, including Community Food Initiatives. Attendees will learn gardening skills that will enable them to create gardens in their backyards, patios and community space. Inquiries about the workshop should be sent to ecohiogarden@gmail.com.

?Many people have never learned basic gardening skills,? Holben said. ?At the workshop, they will learn how to avoid gardening practices that are harmful to the environment, while learning gardening practices that positively impact the environment.?

Second, participants in the gardening workshop, as well as community volunteers, will be asked to apply their gardening skills in the planting and upkeep of a community garden plot at the Athens Community Garden on West State Street in Athens, with dietetics and nutrition students at Ohio University being the primary caretakers of plot. Participants also will have a chance to plant fruit trees and shrubs at various local sites. A few of these locations are the West Side Community Garden, the Ohio University Child Development Center?s Children?s Garden and the Ohio University Ecohouse on Dairy Lane. 

Third, the project will provide printed and online maps of edible fruit trees and shrubs on municipal land in the Athens area. The map portion of the project is collaboration with Ohio University Environmental Studies and will include information about the proper seasons to pick and eat the fruit. Holben said fruit trees on municipal lands are untapped sources of nutritious food, and the new maps will increase awareness of their locations.

After completing the ECOhio project, Holben plans to present methods and outcomes at national professional association meetings so that the program can be replicated in other communities.

?The ECOhio Garden Project is an exciting opportunity to engage the local Athens community in an endeavor that will benefit the environment and educate people about sustainable agriculture,? said Ohio University Director of Environmental Studies Michele Morrone, who wrote a letter of support for the project. ?I believe the project will have long-term impacts on the local community by raising awareness of organic gardening techniques through hands-on activities.?

Holben, a former Canada-U.S. Fulbright Scholar, served as a visiting research chair of sustainability at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, during the 2006-07 academic year. He used the Fulbright award to study food security of individuals in British Columbia who use food banks.

University partners in the ECOhio Garden project include the Student Dietetic and Nutrition Association, Child Development Center, Environmental Studies, Office of Sustainability, and the Leadership Center. Other partners include the Athens County Extension Office and the City of Athens Bike Path Committee.

Fulbright Canada is primarily supported by the U.S. State Department and the Building the Fulbright Future program.


Published: Jan 4, 2010 8:24 AM

David Holben

Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics David Holben is working to establish a garden project in Athens that will help develop a healthy local food system.

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