Fresh produce in Marion Ohio isn’t always as easily accessible for those that struggle financially. These foods are becoming harder to obtain. But that was not going to stop Becky Kindred-Shelter, a mother of three, from feeding her children fresh and healthy foods. Becky knew then that things had to change to make this possible. She decided if help was not available, she and her family would do it on our own. She first started with creating a support group for individuals, families, and children with disabilities two years ago. This was because two of Becky’s children are diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and one child has severe gastrointestinal issues that limit her diet.
It’s because of these food and eating issues that Becky’s family and other members of the group faced, that led Kindred-Shelter to start Urban Gardens. It began with Kindred-Shelter and her husband starting a garden behind their house the same year they started the support group. They had enough produce to feed their family and still take leftovers to the farmers market.
Last year they decided to expand and take on 8 garden beds located at the Taft, Garfield and Hayes Elementary schools and at Mayes Temple on Waterloo. They sold produce and had enough to help over 100 families in need. So began Urban Gardens. Its purpose is to reconfigure food pathways for Marion, making it easier to find fresh, healthy food while being cost-effective. To accomplish this, Kindred-Shelter has a group of staff and volunteers that encourage the inclusion of minorities and those with disabilities. Her board of directors is also a diverse group of individuals.
As a result of all her hard work, Becky won the “Hometown Change-maker Hero” award of 2019. This Ohio Food Policy Network (OFPN) award presented only two awards last October 2019, one to Senator Sherrod Brown and the other to Becky Kindred-Shelter for her Urban Gardens project. Michelle Moskowitz Brown, OFPN chair shared, “Becky stands out as a leader in advancing inclusion. She is increasing healthy food access to address health disparities for people with disabilities.”
Kindred-Shelter also received a grant last year from The Ohio State University at Marion student-led “Pay It Forward” grant. This was in addition to donations, food sales, and other community support to help the program take next steps.
This year Kindred-Shelter and her helpers plan to continue selling produce and offering free delivery in Marion. They will continue to maintain the same community gardens. People with dietary needs will be given free produce and 10% of the produce will be given to Marion’s food pantries. They also plan an expansion of their services to help others in the community start their own urban farms. People interested in urban farming are encouraged to visit one of the Urban Gardens farms to do hand-on maintenance to get the first-hand experience to better understand what this work entails.
And they are moving forward with additional goals. Kindred-Shelter’s husband is a certified aquaponics farmer and together they are working with the Land Bank to take blighted properties and turn them into year-round greenhouses. Their first property, on Millburn, will house their aquaponics farm (a fish farm that uses natural bacteria from the fish to grow produce). Urban Gardens has its first greenhouse, made from 100% recycled materials, constructed. They are currently in the process of acquiring two other properties for an organic greenhouse and a hydroponic greenhouse.
Becky Kindred-Shelter stated, “Our community has, can, and will benefit from the Urban Gardens project to provide people with affordable, fresh produce, as well as help it have a reliable support group for those who need it.”
Urban Gardens and Becky Kindred-Shelter are proof that the people of Marion County can make a positive difference in their community. They are truly MarionMade!.