In the spring of 2017, Valley View founded a Plant Rescue Project.
Valley View Plant Rescue Project
Valley View’s plant rescue garden is a simple story of volunteers planting, growing and donating fresh food…with a twist. Similar to food rescue efforts to reduce waste, we rescue thousands of unsold plants at local nurseries that are otherwise destined for the dumpster. We fill our garden and help provide healthy, fresh food to those in need throughout greater Cincinnati. On a whim in 2015, one of our volunteers loaded a minivan with close to 500 plants from nurseries willing to give us what they considered to be trash. With plenty of space in our 2 acre garden, we planted the wilted, sad looking plants to see if we could revive them and if they would produce. The result was close to 3,000lbs. of produce. That was all the motivation we needed.
We had 5 volunteers rescuing, planting, harvesting and nurturing extra plants in their basements under lights, but that wasn’t going to be enough. We knew that without increasing our volunteer engagement and acquiring the necessary equipment we would not been able to successfully increase our production.
We applied to the Greater Cincinnati Foundation and were very fortunate to be awarded a significant grant to help increase our capacity. We also leveraged our social media, mailing lists and other connections to build our network of helping hands. This brought dozens of new volunteers onto our property each month with some volunteers returning for another shift and bringing curious friends.
We have learned there is strong demand for fresh local produce among citizens of all socioeconomic statuses. Surprisingly, there is a large supply of plants available from local garden centers towards the end of May that is considered trash. We’ve proven that with the right farm equipment and volunteers, we are able to consistently produce large quantities of high-quality produce to share. Today, we work with 5 partnering nurseries, we organize regular volunteer workdays and are donating to 4 different pantries. In 2019, we welcomed 210 volunteers to help in the gardens. Most importantly, we have donated close
to 12,000lbs. of produce in the past 3 growing seasons.
We increased our capacity, but what we didn't anticipate was the extent to which this project would help us build lasting relationships with individuals and organizations in the Cincinnati community that previously had never heard of Valley View. The story of rescuing plants is fun to share and easy to understand. Individuals have had no hesitation to jump in to help and similar outreach organizations have been quick to pursue collaborative opportunities. While we have been digging in the dirt, our volunteer base has blossomed, our community garden plots are almost all rented for the season, our partnerships have grown and Valley View has fortified its role as a leader in the community that is generous, creative and worthy of the support. Rescuing, growing and sharing is truly rewarding.