Courtney Johnson remembers going to his grandfather’s house on 306 Ridgeway Drive in Evansville’s Glenwood neighborhood as a child to help tend the garden they had.
Johnson’s grandfather, Stanley Trice, bought the property in 1972. Trice kept a garden there, and today – with the house gone and the lot vacant – Johnson wants to bring a garden back. Only this time, it would be for the whole community.
The Granddaddy’s Garden Spot project is trying to raise $50,000 this month, which would qualify it to receive a matching grant through the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority.
The garden would bring a fresh food outlet to a neighborhood of high need.
“It’s a food desert,” says Johnson, the founder and executive director of the Evansville-based nonprofit Young & Established, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, which mentors and assists local youth. “During COVID, I was very active in that area passing out food. I still have family members and friends in the area. I know it very well, as far as playing with friends and being out there when I was growing up.”
Trice “always had a garden in the back,” Johnson says of his grandfather. “Tomatoes, cucumbers, he had the whole works.”
The funding, according to Johnson, would allow for the purchase of items to get a substantial garden going on Ridgeway Drive. It would cover fencing, tools and equipment, a water system, raised beds, a greenhouse, signage, a fire pit, and a chicken coup.
The wish list also includes a farmers market facility – a general store where nearby residents could buy fresh fruit and vegetables.
While providing food to those who need it, Granddaddy’s Garden Spot also is seen as a place to educate residents about healthy nutrition and encourage entrepreneurship through agriculture. There also will be a program connected to the existing Young & Established cooking class.
“We want to grow things obviously, but then also give local farmers individuals who are into agriculture the opportunity to bring items to sell,” Johnson says. “We’ve already partnered with a few local farmers who are doing things around the community.”
The farmers market probably will be open on a weekend day, but “that’s stuff we’ll put together down the road once it gets rolling a little bit,” Johnson says.
One major donor, Mattingly Charities, helped Granddaddy’s Garden Spot get rolling with a $16,000 gift. Time is of the essence: The campaign faces a Jan. 30 deadline to reach the $50,000 needed to qualify for the matching grant.
“I truly believe we’re going to reach our goal,” Johnson says.
Trice, a Marine and retired coal miner, is excited his family’s old homestead could come back to life in a new way.
“He has been involved in this whole process and happy to see it turn into something,” Johnson says of his grandfather. “We’re blessed to still have him around. He taught me a lot, taught my father, taught all the men in my family a lot of things.”
The most important lesson?
“To be a good person,” Johnson says. “Work hard and always provide for your family.”
For more information or to donate, visit Granddaddy’s Garden Spot’s fundraising page. As of press time, donors had pledged a little more than half the campaign’s fundraising goal.