Unity Gardens celebrates new orcharding partnership with Giving Grove

Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 6:31 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - The nearly 50 Unity Gardens that dot Michiana are a collective, green oasis where community members come to bare their souls as they harvest food.

On Friday, Unity Gardens celebrated a windfall. The national nonprofit Giving Grove is partnering with Unity Gardens to fund the creation of 20 urban orchards within three years. Unity Gardens is collecting $75,000 and seeking matching funds from the community.

Giving Grove Co-Executive Director Erica Kratofil had yet more numbers to share.

“Our typical urban orchard has 15 trees, and over its lifetime it will provide about 185,000 free servings of food to the community,” she said. “That’s fruits, berries, and nuts.”

“It’s a perfect partnership,” said Sara Stewart, executive director of Unity Gardens. “I love the way Giving Grove talks about tree canopy and carbon sequestration. All those things are so important for the health and well-being of our communities decades down the road.”

It seems in the urban gardens game, sequester and sequestration are frequently used words.

“In South Bend, 15 trees would sequester about 13 tons of carbon,” Kratofil said. “They would remove pollution from the air. They would sequester storm water.”

Stewart describes the money coming to Unity Gardens as just the latest miracle for the community garden. Perhaps the last miracle was when noted philanthropist Jerry Thoma gave Unity Gardens about $80,000 dollars to build a Geodesic Dome.

The dome is more than a greenhouse — it is a classroom and a gathering place, fitting in perfectly with the notion of a Unity Garden sanctuary.

“And they just make for beautiful spaces for neighbors to get to know one another and share life,” Kratofil said.

The folks from Unity Gardens are quick to tell you that there are a number of things that they do. They call themselves a gigantic spark of positivity.

Case in point, they’re great for the environment, they offer free food. And here’s something you might not have considered… if you happen to own a home within 1,000 feet of a community garden, your property value is very likely to go up about 10% inside of five years.