To overcome urban blight and alleviate hunger in the community by teaching people to grow, prepare and preserve their own food while working alongside them to beautify their neighborhoods.
Let’s Grow Akron is equipped to implement and teach the full spectrum of reclaiming urban land for food production. Staff and volunteers provide instruction on community organizing, site assessment, soil testing, clearing and preparing the land, navigating local regulations for land use and water access, seed starting, distribution of donated seeds and transplants, plant maintenance, environmentally friendly disease and pest management, sustainable growing practices, soil quality improvement, composting, season extension, and seed saving techniques.
In 1988, as a response to a growing concern about inner city neighborhood deterioration and limited access to affordable healthy foods, Elaine Evans established Let’s Grow Akron as a nonprofit community gardening organization. She started with a sack of donated potatoes and went to work with neighbors to clear the first overgrown vacant lot on Long Street in the Summit Lake neighborhood. The harvest that year from just one lot yielded an overflowing truckload of potatoes; enough to feed the neighborhood and give back to the hunger center that had donated the original sack. This was only the beginning. Over the years she worked alongside every imaginable underserved demographic to build community while growing food. She transformed hundreds of unsightly vacant lots into productive gardens, fed thousands, and donated innumerable amounts of fresh produce.
Elaine had a very special love for children and established the Harvest of Hope Children's Community Garden program to teach them how to grow and sell fruit, vegetables, flowers, and herbs. She gathered the children in the Summit Lake area and teams of adult volunteers to clear one of Akron’s top ten illegal dump sites to create The Children's Garden. A 19,000 square foot lot was transformed to include a pond, stream and walking bridge, an arbor, and ABC garden with a plant for every letter of the alphabet, a 60 foot canal boat replica, a 13 foot dinosaur, and several other sculptures that were planted in the numerous flower beds. In 2017, with the help of Keep Akron Beautiful
, the garden was renovated and dedicated the Elaine Evans’ Memorial Children’s Garden.
This year Let’s Grow Akron celebrates its 30th year as a nonprofit community gardening organization. The work of founder Elaine Evans is visible throughout the inner city where she transformed vacant lots into green spaces and community gardens that continue to improve neighborhoods and feed the neighbors. After the retirement and unfortunate passing of Ms. Evans, the torch was passed to Lisa Nunn to continue Let’s Grow Akron’s mission to overcome urban blight and alleviate hunger in the community by teaching the underserved in our community to grow, prepare and preserve their own food while working alongside them to beautify their neighborhood.