CARTHAGE, Mo. — Roots are taking hold in Carthage to build a community garden as part of a collaborative health effort between H.E.R.E. 4 Carthage and the city's parks and recreation department.

H.E.R.E. (Healthy Eating, Regular Exercise) 4 Carthage is a grant-funded initiative made possible by the Carthage Community Foundation and funding from the Steadley Trust and the McCune-Brooks Regional Hospital Trust. Since 2018, the $300,000 grant has been disbursed to help Carthage residents eat healthier and be more active through education and awareness.

“The Missouri Foundation for Health was the group that actually put the grant out, but it’s really to promote healthy eating and regular exercise habits in the city,” said Chanti Beckham, community health coordinator with H.E.R.E. 4 Carthage. “The goal of the grant was to try to reduce obesity, so our focus was on getting people to move more and giving them more opportunities to have access to fresh produce.”

Mark Peterson, parks and recreation director, said he was approached by H.E.R.E. 4 Carthage to help find space in one of the city parks that was easily accessible and had room to grow. The team narrowed it down to Griggs Park because of its centralized location and convenience for walkers, bikers and drivers.

“H.E.R.E. 4 Carthage went through the process of our Adopt-A-Park program, so they adopted this area in Griggs Park, which is in the southeast corner, to put in community gardens,” Peterson said. “I was 100% on board to do this and collaborate with them.”

The designated space for the community garden will be approximately 90 feet by 30 feet, and it is currently being designed and plotted. The grant will fund all of the materials to build the raised-bed gardens, a safety border and a storage shed on the west side.

There will be more than a dozen 4-by-8-foot raised beds at different heights to accommodate gardeners with mobility issues. The beds can be rented by individuals or groups throughout the year. The goal is to have the garden ready by spring, and a portion of the produce will be donated to local food banks.

“We would like to see more people from the city out gardening and growing produce that they can use themselves, and also be able to have produce that they can give back to the community too,” Beckham said. “One of our beds is going to be a community bed where we’ll have a group of gardeners that manage and take care of it. We’ll change programming on that, and we’d like to work with the schools or other groups.”

At least five people will be appointed to a Carthage Community Gardens Committee to set the rules and regulations and help get everything into place. The gardens will be turned over to the city after the first year and maintained and operated by the parks department by spring 2021.

Need for gardens

United Health Foundation’s latest America’s Health Rankings report found that states including Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma have dropped in health rankings over the past three decades. America’s Health Rankings provides the longest-running state-by-state analysis of the nation’s health.

News reporter

Kimberly Barker is a news reporter for The Globe who covers Northeast Oklahoma, Southeast Kansas, as well as Carl Junction and Webb City.

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