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Urban farm keeps growing thanks in part to Toledo arts festival

Money raised at the Crosby Festival of the Arts is used to help support the work of Toledo GROWs.
Published: Jun. 23, 2021 at 6:10 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - A very popular summertime tradition in Toledo kicks off later this week. The Crosby Festival of the Arts draws people from all over. While it showcases some very talented artists, it also helps a Toledo non-profit continue its groundbreaking work.

Toledo GROWs has been part of the city’s landscape for 25 years. The organization is helping support 125 community gardens this year alone. A plot of land just north of downtown serves as home base.

The urban farm is quietly tucked away along Oneida Street. There are plants growing everywhere from greenhouses to garden plots. What’s happening here has been life-changing for many, and it’s all thanks to a small staff and an army of volunteers.

Yvonne Dubielak is the Executive Director of Toledo GROWs.

“Often volunteers will say I am here to help because it’s good for the community. The more they learn and really dive into it, the more they love it. People get excited about what we are doing here. In addition to what we do at the farm, we also support more than 100 community gardens. We can help with seeds and seedlings. We can help people get their garden organized. We can get volunteers out when possible, and we can get them together with other gardeners so they can share ideas.”

Sally McQueen has been volunteering since 2016. She’s had gardens big and small throughout her life, and she loves sharing the joy of gardening with others.

“It’s nice to feel like you’re making an impact. Kids learn to grow their own food here. They learn about vegetables they’ve never seen before, or heard of. They get to see where it came from. We hope that these are things that will stay with them throughout their lives, like it has for me. Teaching people to grow their own food for health and economic reasons is one of our important missions.”

What’s grown at the farm is sold as part of a Community Supported Agriculture Shares program. Dubielak says nothing goes to waste.

“The bulk of what we grow here is sold to bring money into the program so that we can continue our work. 5-10% of our harvest is shared with the community every year. We share with neighbors, and other organizations in our neighborhood.”

It certainly takes a lot of work to keep everything growing, but the benefits of what’s happening on this farm, are the seeds that will help this community continue to grow for generations to come.

The Crosby Festival of the Arts generates about 20% of the annual operating revenue for Toledo GROWs. The festival is this Friday through Sunday at The Toledo Botanical Garden.

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