The Ohio State University students and faculty teamed up with representatives and leaders of the Charles Madison Nabrit Memorial Garden to create an Urban Garden for sustainability education and agriculture located in Britney Hills, a low-income neighborhood in Columbus, OH.

“The USDA says that 33% of the households are at or below the poverty line,” Paula Penn-Nabrit, co-founder of the garden, says. “13% don’t have access to cars. The closest supermarkets are Wholefoods and Trader Joe’s and those are 4.3 miles away.”

To tackle the issue of food insecurity, the students, faculty, and community partnered to build a climate-resilient, cost-effective garden behind the Church of Christ of Apostolic Faith. The goal of this environmentally friendly garden is to provide families with affordable fresh produce using technology such as the Farmbot, an open-sourced farming robot that was discovered thanks to YouTube.

Not only is the Farmbot used for farming purposes, but it is also used to educate the community youth, high school students, and church parishioners who visit the garden. “This project has impacted the community, mostly for the kids,” Josh Williams, a student at Ohio State University, says. To help engage these local students, OSU students developed an instructional manual to build a replica Farrmbot using a standard Lego Mindstorm EV3 kit.

Furthermore, community students are able to attend STEM to STEAM: Its All In The Garden, which is a summer camp held in the garden! At the camp, OSU students and garden leaders lead activities, such as stem-based educational modules, to engage students with topics such as coding, agriculture, climate change, and more.

“The research we have done, the educational program we have built, the impact that we hope has happened, that we want to continue to see happening really is something we hope provides return,” David A. Delaine, Ohio State University assistant professor, says.

“When we think about the community impact, I think the most obvious tangible one is the farmers market,” Penn-Nabrit says. Community members are invited to the weekly farmers market to buy fresh produce at a dollar a pound, hang out or even see it for the first time. “The idea of accessibility and affordability has been addressed,” she says.

The garden has allowed the community of Britney Hills, and surrounding communities, to easily access affordable produce all while strengthening interpersonal relationships. From working with one another the team was able to execute their project plan, and they look forward to continuing their work. This effort has been expanded to also impact the South Side Family Farms and the hope is to broaden the impact by also partnering with this community asset.

EPICS in IEEE’s generous grant of $10,000 helped the student team turn an empty, unused space behind the church into something vibrant for the entire community to enjoy. “We would like to thank EPICS in IEEE and our project partners for their contributions and support,” Delaine says. This project is part of the EPICS in IEEE Environmental Competition in partnership with the United Engineering Foundation.

The Charles Madison Nabrit Memorial Garden has become a place where all are welcomed. To learn more about this project, check out the below video!