Grilling in the Garden to serve up fresh veggies, garden tours

If you haven't visited Jefferson Street Oasis (JSO) before, now is you chance to not only visit the award-winning site but also to sample some of the home-grown vegetables from the garden itself. 

JSO's annual Grilling in the Garden event will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday, July 30. It is free and open to the public, with street parking available near the 1100 W. Jefferson St. entrance and in the lot near the 1027 W. High St. entrance.

The garden, which won the 2021 Best Community Garden Award by the Columbus Dispatch - judged by the State Master Gardeners, began in 2010 with just a little more than one acre and eight gardeners. 

The site now boasts a more than 2.5 acre plot of land and more than 85 community gardeners growing and harvesting food. 

"Grilling Day is a grilling and tour event that allows people to see firsthand what we do as a community allotment style garden," says Terry Fredrich, one of the garden's founders.

Fredrich says events like Grilling in the Garden are especially significant to the garden because they often bring in new people who haven't seen the site before. And, oftentimes, local individuals and business owners decide they want to help financially support the goals and mission of the garden to continue its forward momentum in Springfield's Southside. 

Visitors at the event can expect both guided and self-guided tours, interpretive signage explaining the different areas of the garden, and several grills set up with volunteers cooking free samples of about 25 of the different vegetable species grown at JSO. 

"It's all vegetarian," Fredrich says. "It's all done creatively, and it's amazing how well it all tastes when someone who knows how to grill all these vegetables is cooking them. We don't offer meat that day because part of our mission is to improve the diet of all of us as individuals, and increasing our vegetable intake is a way of improving our diets."

While the last Saturday in July is typically one of the hottest times of year, Fredrich says they stick with the annual event date because it's the best time for the widest variety of produce. 

"It's when we have the most local produce available. You catch a lot of the early crops and the beginnings of the late crops," he says. 

Also included within JSO are 140 heritage breed pasture chickens. The event will feature a first-time fundraiser - "Chicken Poop Bingo" - in which Fredrich says players will pay to pick a number and winners will be picked based on which number a chicken "chooses." 

In addition to enjoying freshly grilled veggies, Fredrich hopes visitors leave their visit with a positive experience and an understanding of what the garden means to the community. 

"What we want people to learn is that something like this can actually happen in Springfield, Ohio," he says. "And it can be done effectively and efficiently. We are 100 percent volunteers, no one is paid, and we're covering about 85 plots for people to grow and produce fresh food and improve options in a food-desert area of town."

In addition to Grilling in the Garden, Jefferson Street Oasis is also a stop along Saturday's South Side in Bloom tour of community parks, gardens and historical sites throughout Springfield's Southside. 

Read more articles by Natalie Driscoll.