As an occupational therapist, Helene Webster-Richardson knows the value of gardening, but she has enjoyed learning the scientific and environmental benefits as part of the NEEED Project.
The NEEED Project, a community based not-for-profit dedicated to developing sustainable solutions for Nutrition, Energy, Environment and Economic Development, formed about 18 months ago.
The organization of about 60 has been supporting the biochar soil amendment research by Dr. Raymond Bayan at Lincoln University.
By Webster-Richardson sharing a half-acre lot, the NEEED Project this spring will move forward with its Heart of Missouri Gardens project.
The Big Horn Drive plot will demonstrate the benefits of biochar.
More importantly, it will supply the Senior Nutrition Center with fresh vegetables and a place for its clients to get their hands dirty.
"It's wonderful for seniors to be involved with the gardening project," Webster-Richardson said.
Sharing the lot will be like a living memorial to Webster-Richardson's late husbands.
Murray Webster, the son of a farmer, "would be so pleased that we would be using it to grow something for the benefit of the community.
Jack Richardson, a gardener, gave away most of the vegetables he grew at the Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department's North Jefferson City garden plots. He also was a organizing board member for the Laurie Senior Nutrition Center.
"He would be very pleased, too, to use this land for community betterment," she said.
The NEEED Project is focusing on volunteer recruitment.
Awareness of the not-for-profit has spread through social media and word-of-mouth.
And, they have prepared an informational video for YouTube, just in time for the group's second annual meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Coca-Cola Community Room, 605 S. Washington St.
The garden kickoff and an update on Bayan's research will be followed by featured speaker Melinda Hemmelgarn. She is an award-winning writer and radio host, known as "the food sleuth."
The Heart of Missouri Gardens hopes to become a volunteer opportunity for church groups, youth organizations and other civic clubs.
"If we get young people involved, they will gain a lifelong skill and be part of something beyond themselves," said member Shubah Miller.
Then, NEEED can educate the youth about being good caretakers of the soil and other natural resources, noted member Steve Saak.
The NEEED Project hopes to add multiple garden plots with eventual greenhouses for year-round production to provide fresh food to other food pantries and organizations.
Missouri is among the top 10 states for food insecurity.
"It is ironic in a land blessed with such abundance, that hunger and nutrition are still problems," the video said.
In addition to the gardens and the biochar research, the NEEED Project also has its eye on promoting commercially viable technology and creating jobs.
NEEED members bring a variety of backgrounds and interests, such as health care, engineering and agriculture, to the brainstorming sessions.
"I'm willing to share my land, but I don't have the gardening expertise," Webster-Richardson said. "It is neat to see everyone who brings different strengths to the table; we share information and work together."
Call 573-635-0636 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.